“Messi or Ronaldo?” is the most common question the aspiring young football stars of the Gazikent community centre-turned-refuge ask each other and newcomers. The children of Gaziantep cannot be kept from playing in the rubble of flattened buildings, near makeshift roadside shelters, or in state-constructed tent cities.
The football pitches and indoor spaces of Gazikent, repurposed post-earthquake to house as many as 5,000 displaced people, resounded with activity — the clamour of play and friendly contestations settled in Syrian Arabic and Turkish.
Other youngsters, less inclined to sport, played games, chatted, or wandered around to cope with the boredom and indignity of emergency sheltering. Aimless distractions to soothe the pain of losing homes, loved ones, and possibly what was an already tenuous future.
Once very full, the Gazikent refuge has mostly been disbanded now that a strange normalcy resumed in Gaziantep post-earthquake. “About 100 people remain, mostly Syrians too afraid …