PYRBAUM, Germany (Reuters) – Hamdi Al-Kadri used to referee soccer matches with players as big as Ronaldo. Now, forced to flee his native Syria, he oversees amateur matches as a way to integrate into his new home country, Germany.
The 51-year-old former FIFA referee fled the Syrian civil war in 2012 after his house in Damascus was destroyed in an air raid, first heading to neighboring Jordan and then making it to Germany with his wife and four children.
The last time he was here was in very different circumstances – as an assistant referee in the 2006 World Cup.
“I remember how well organized it was in Germany. For me it was the best organized very high-level tournament of all time,” he said.
Now he is back as one of more than a million migrants who have arrived in Germany this year and last.
While the general mood toward migrants has soured, Al-Kadri’s new club – SV Postbauer – could not believe its luck when the former full-time referee turned up.
On Sunday he refereed for them for the second time, handing out seven yellow cards.
Al-Kadri got a refereeing license from the Bavarian Football Association (BFV) in September – a small piece of paper that gives him a lot of hope.
“I want my children to finish their studies and then to do whatever they want at university,” he said.
“Germany is a stable country. The future is secure.”
(Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)