Night football is fellowship and love
Timbuktus song "Det löser sig" flows out of the speakers in Tipshallen in Växjö. It is 21 o'clock and it is Friday. Already a hundred people are in Tipshallen to play football.
– There were nine participants here the first time. Today we are many, many more, says Daniel Najafi, who is one of the evening's leaders and active in Öster in Society.
Every Friday night during autumn, winter and spring, around 160 young people gather to play football. The initiative is called Night Football and behind it stands Öster IF's concept Öster in Society.
– We started with another project that was similar to what the Night Football is today. But when Öster in Society was created, and when Daniel Najafi and Sara Lennqvist came in, we started several projects. Among other things, block football and Parafootball, says Mustafa Khader who has been a part of the Night since the start in 2014.
During the evening, Tipshallen is divided into several football pitches. The participants are divided according to age and feel for the ball. Then they play football until midnight.
– In the beginning it was very controlled but now it's really spontaneous football. We have leaders and judges who walk around and help, but we do not interfere. Some don't even want to play football, and that's okay. They do other things, such as playing volleyball or badminton. It's more than just football here, says Daniel Najafi.
Who is coming here?
– People between 3 and 65 years. But we prioritize those who are between 15 and 25 years. These are the ones we want here the most because they may not have much else to do on a Friday night. And we have a lot of nationalities gathered here. I think we have counted up to 50, says Daniel Najafi.
After half an hour, Daniel Najafi walks out to the middle of Tipshallen. He and all the leaders gather the over 200 people who are here to attend and gives a speech.
– It is you, all of you who are here today, who make Night Football what it is, Daniel Najafi shouts before it is time to start playing.
One of those here is 12-year-old Daniel. He has been at the Night Football several times before.
– Playing football is not about winning. It's about making new friends and having fun, he says.
This is something that leader Haydar Mahsin agrees with.
– Everyone is welcome here. We are a bit like a big family. I have not worked here for so long, but I have noticed that we leaders are role models and that the children imitate us.
How do you feel about that?
– If we are positive, those who come here are also positive. Night football is on Friday nights and if you feel bad then it may be on Friday nights when hard thoughts come up. Instead of sitting at home and thinking, they can come here and meet nice leaders and players. We are really a big family that takes care of each other.
19-year-old Ridwan Omer is also one of the leaders. He says he was one of those who came to the Night Football just when the project started.
– I was a participant from the beginning. Then I volunteered and a month later I became a leader. Now I'm also a coach for the 14-year-olds in Öster, he says and continues:
– I came to Sweden in 2013 and the following year I came here for the first time.
How was it?
– I came alone the first time but I quickly made friends here. Everyone helped me and said "come play with us". I always longed for Fridays because then I knew what to do and where to be. It meant a lot and also helped me with the language.
Now it is full activity in the Tipshallen. Footballs and players fly back and forth over the various plans and laughter is mixed with encouraging words such as "pass me". One of tonight's judges is Endrit Dullovi.
– I know everyone's name in the age group I take care of. They come here every week.
Why do you come here?
– I look forward to every Friday. I remember once when I had had a tough period that i was so happy to be able to come here. I've been out partying at nightclubs, but I'm much better of here on Fridays. There are only positive feelings here. From the youngest to the oldest. You become a completely different person when you come here. There's nothing negative in here. Only love. Love and football of course, but it goes hand in hand.
It may not be a matter of course for everyone to spend their Fridays playing spontaneous youth football. But the leaders of Night Football don't see it as a sacrifice.
– It is because we have the best leaders in all of Växjö that all of this spins as well as it does. Not all leaders play football, but everyone loves football. And everyone got the job on completely different bases and ways. Here, no nice resume is required because we believe in second chances, says Daniel Najafi.
What does it take to become a leader?
– A smile, positive energy, a desire to be here and a love for football. Someone who says yes. But as I said, we believe in second chances. If society looks down on you, it is easy to begin to doubt yourself. But we say "Here is a place for you to grow". We believe that good things happen when you do good things. And fulfilling other people's dreams.