Kraainem Football Club, a second family

Text: Laure Derenne - Photography: Virginie Nguyen

Mohamed, known as Fofana, remembers the many football matches from his childhood, on the clay streets of Conakry. His migration has led him to Belgium, where he immediately found new teammates, on Kraainem’s football pitches.

Mohamed Fofana, known as Fofana at the Club, trains with the club’s second team, progressing in the 4th provincial division, on the 30th of January 2020.

From Conakry to Kraainem

Mohamed, who is more often referred to as Fofana, grew up in Guinea-Conakry. Following a multitude of events, a decision is forced upon him: he must leave the country. Africa and Europe are haunted by the thousands of young people dying in the Mediterranean yet Fofana takes the risk of crossing the sea.

Mohamed Fofana, in training and busy with a plank exercise with Kraainem Football Club’s second team (P4), 30th of January 2020. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Fofana tries to attend the training sessions despite the long distance between the Fedasil centre where he resides and the football club.


Upon their arrival in Morocco at 10pm, on a canoe with over 50 passengers, he has no way of returning: “A man terrorized us with his gun. He locked and loaded the gun’s magazine and said: “You see this? Those who don’t stay calm: PANG PANG PANG! Finish!”

“It was hell!” Fofana arrives in Europe, crosses the whole of France and lands at Brussels’ north station, where he went first from the CGRA then to the Petit-Château and, finally, at Fedasil Woluwé Saint-Pierre. In the hallways of the centre, being the football fan that he is, he notices flyers mentioning the training sessions at Kraainem Football Club.

After the training session on the 15th of October 2020, Fofana is chatting with Aurelié, an asylum seeker from Cameroon.


The football family

« We Welcome Young Refugees ». The project’s banner flutters above the club’s entrance. Simple, effective! Sandra is the first to welcome him. He remembers it as if it were yesterday: “When you arrive from a foreign country, what counts the most, more than any material thing, is being able to meet people with whom you can share your story and with whom you can feel at ease and have fun with”. That is exactly what happened with Sandra. She listened to him and put him in contact with “Monsieur Laurent”: “Prési! Come listen to that this kid is saying!”. From then on, Fofana joins the training sessions of the Under 21’s and, after a few weeks, is scouted by the P4 team.

Right winger, sometimes a striker, Fofana feels like “the happiest person on earth” when he’s on the pitch. After training, he likes to spend time at the cafeteria with his teammates: Salah, Mehdi, Dylan, Victor, Adam and the others are “like brothers”. This is a reciprocal sentiment. They all agree: Fofana is a sharp and enthusiastic guy, who’s reliable, polite, curious and a good listener who learns fast… without mentioning that he very much knows his stuff when it comes to football and everyone absolutely wants to have him on their team during the quiz nights organised by the coach!

During the month of March 2020, Fofana learns that he must leave the Fedasil centre where he was staying. Fully confined, as the whole of Europe was paralysed by the pandemic, his orange card (temporary residence permit) had not been renewed. Fofana can count on his friends to find him a place to stay temporarily while waiting for his dossier to advance the next stage with the help of a lawyer.


31st of July 2020. Fofana consults his messages in the “wi-fi” room of the Petit Château in Brussels. Après un été difficile, il a enfin obtenu un recours pour sa demande d’asile en Belgique et loge au Petit Château en attendant qu’une place se libère dans un centre Fedasil.


Anchoring in Brussels

Throughout the procedure of his asylum request, Fofana changed reception centres quite regularly. He sometimes discovered his next destination the day he had to be transferred, relieved to to receive a STIB (public transport in Brussels) travel card instead of a train ticket to Arlon or Liège. It is the cosmopolitan Brussels that has become his second home, the place where he imagines his future to be.

Thanks to the Engie Foundation, a partner of the club’s project, Fofana managed to equip himself with a computer and is currently following training as a Web developer at Milocs (Missions Locale de Schaerbeek). It is here that he discovered the world of coding and algorithms. He will soon join a company for a seven-month internship via the Becode association, which is devoted to teaching “the numeric talents of tomorrow”.

In the middle of the Ramadan period, Fofana was invited to pick up his football boots again to train at Kraainem after the long hiatus due to Covid. He didn’t hesitate one bit, even if it was quite challenging physically. Football, the team, Sandra; he missed all of it way too much!

1st of August 2020. Fofana gets a haircut nearby the Gare du Nord. A friend from the Fedasil centre in Zaventem recommended this place and he’s been going there once a month ever since then.


May 2021. Fofana has managed to obtain a computer science internship for which he is taking training sessions at Milocs (Mission Locale de Schaerbeek). The majority of the courses take place online but Fofana is free to come on site anytime to make the most of a quiet and calm working space. He’s welcomed there by “two very friendly ladies who help me a lot”.