Bakery Jatta arrived in Germany as a teenager seeking “a fair chance". Fast forward two years and he's playing for Hamburg in the Nordderby. His story shows that believing in refugees pays off, writes DW's Felix Tamsut.
The much-anticipated Nordderby between Werder Bremen and Hamburg was a remarkable game for many reasons. While the sporting aspect of Bremen's win over their local rivals are widely discussed, one player who featured in that game — and his remarkable story — deserve just as much attention.
Nineteen-year-old Bakery Jatta made his third Bundesliga start for Hamburg in one of the club's most important matches of the season. Jatta, a Gambian refugee, didn't have any plans of becoming a professional footballer when he arrived to Germany at the age of 17 from Gambia.
"I didn't have any plans. I just had the dream of a better life, of getting a fair chance,” he told local Hamburg outlet MOPO.
Jatta is not the only rising star in the Bundesliga who has sought asylum a long way from his homeland. Stuttgart's Chadrac Akolo fled from DR Congo at the age of 14. He, too, didn't have any plans of making it big as a footballer.
"When I arrived in Europe, all I wanted was to go to school,” Akolo told DW's Joscha Weber. Yet when he arrived in Switzerland, Akolo joined a local club after his friends "introduced me to football".
Refugees have dreams
The stories of Jatta and Akolo, as well as that of Bremen's Ousman Manneh, epitomize the sentiment of so many refugees in Germany.
More than one million people have arrived in the country after Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to open the country's borders to those fleeing from war zones in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of them are young, and many dream of future success further down the line. And indeed, many of them end up living their dream.
As the country faces the challenge of integrating them, those with experience of arriving in Germany as asylum seekers and succeeding against the odds could, and should, become role models for Germany's new arrivals, as well as for the authorities and general public.
A lesson for both sides
For the newcomers, it shows that getting past the significant hurdle of growing accustomed to life in a new country, culture and language is not an impossible task, and it can lead to great rewards. For the authorities in Germany, and indeed for the German society, those stories of success against all odds should serve as a reminder.
Refugees are people. They have hopes, dreams and aspirations. They just need someone to believe in them, and they will return the favor with success, as Bakkery Jatta and Chadrac Akolo can testify.