Tripped-up Syrian refugee starts a new Spanish football life

  • AFP, Madrid
  • Updated: Sep 18, 2015 10:42 IST
A migrant carrying a child falls after tripping on a TV camerawoman while trying to escape from a collection point in Roszke village, Hungary. (Reuters Photo)

The Syrian refugee football coach who made world headlines when a Hungarian camerawoman tripped him as he fled said on Thursday it felt "fantastic" starting a new life in Spain.

Osama Abdul Mohsen, a former first division football trainer in Syria, was welcomed by a soccer coaching school in Madrid that has offered him a job.

He arrived in Spain late on Wednesday night with his sons Mohammad, 18 and Zaid, seven. "Our first day in Madrid is very fantastic. I am very, very happy. Thank you," he told reporters on Thursday outside the apartment where he is being lodged in southern Madrid.

On arriving in the city late the previous night by train he said: "Thank you, Spain. I love Madrid, I love Spain. This is very important for my life."

On September 9 camerawoman Petra Laszlo was filmed tripping him as he fled with Zaid in his arms near the Hungarian border with Serbia.

Laszlo was fired from her job and later apologised, saying she "panicked". Mohsen, who is 52 according to Spanish newspaper El Mundo, was brought to Spain by the CENAFE coaches' training school in the Madrid suburb of Getafe.

Its president Conrado Galan called the incident at the border "a blessed trip-up". He said Mohsen had "slept soundly" on his first night in Spain.

'Helping a fellow football coach'

It was reported after the tripping incident that Mohsen was formerly manager of Syrian first division side Al-Fotuwa.

Conrado Galan's brother Miguel Angel, the director of the school, reached out to Mohsen after reading that in a newspaper.

"We are a national coaching school so we decided to help a fellow coach," he said. He said CENAFE also aimed to bring over Mohsen's wife and two other children, who were reported to be in a refugee camp in Turkey.

"We are going to try and find them," Miguel Angel Galan told reporters. "The story is not finished. We are halfway towards granting them total happiness."

Conrado Galan said Mohsen was the "ideal candidate" to teach in the coaching school. "He can train coaches who will have to go to Dubai, Qatar and Egypt" where Spanish trainers are in demand, he said.

El Mundo said Mohsen left Syria a year ago and spent time in Turkey before moving on this month with Zaid.

The mayor of Getafe, Sara Hernandez, said Zaid would soon be able to go to school once his father receives his official asylum seeker's card.

'Cities of refuge'

Spain's conservative government has agreed to receive more than 17,000 refugees of the hundreds of thousands arriving in Europe, but has been accused of dragging its feet.

Spain's Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said Mohsen's case would be processed as quickly as possible.

"The humanitarian principal prevails over all other considerations" in this case, Fernandez Diaz said, but warned his was an exceptional case.

"Not just any town or region can do this because the right to asylum is under the authority of the state," said the minister. Before the government this month changed its stance on receiving more asylum seekers, Fernandez Diaz had warned obligatory quotas would encourage more migrants to come.

On Thursday he reiterated Spain's call for a "global" solution to the refugee crisis. Madrid, Barcelona and other towns have offered themselves as "cities of refuge" for Syrians and others.

The mayor of Getafe called on the government to speed up processing of refugees. "We are suffering bureaucratic delays in processing applications for refugee status," she said. "High-profile cases like this serve to draw attention to the situation in our cities."

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