Utrecht has been a refuge for refugees since 1956 (Hungarians). Since 2019, the so-called Einstein plan, in which the neighborhood, associations and other organizations work together on the reception and integration of refugees, has been the plan. De Halter also participates in this. Marina van Huissteden-Kaspers took a look at the site of Sport Utrecht and DUIC.
It can be said that they are used to strengthening the sports association De Halter. The now 101-year-old club, based at the De Oude Veiling sports hall on Heycopplein, gives the word ‘hospitality’ a special meaning. For many years, De Halter has kept in touch with fellow associations far beyond national borders. It is less known that the club has also been accepting refugees for years.
Robbie van Straten, a police officer in everyday life, is a board member of the club. Not only because of the leading character of the wrestling department, both at home and abroad, but also because of the social side of the club.
“It actually started with our honorary chairman Nol Kooijmans, who died in 2015. That man set the tone for what kind of club we really are. And then we talk not only about performance, but certainly also about the social character. He was also the one who showed us how important sport is in difficult times. ”
Kooijmans, himself a well-known wrestler, did not only believe in the club’s right to exist. He probably believed even more in the people in and around the club. And you can still find that atmosphere. During the training sessions, competitions and the international Easter tournament for young people, where about 600 young people from twenty different countries participate. And the people that Kooijmans so firmly believed in continue his ‘legacy’ in words and gestures.
“We were confronted with refugees for the first time after the war in the former Yugoslavia in 1991. In 2015, there was a call from the COA (Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers, ed.) To receive about 250 refugees from Syria. and Eritrea. And in 2021, 500 asylum seekers followed in the casino at Jaarbeurs, evacuated from, among others, Afghanistan. During the last shelter, we even took action to give these people a little distraction in this awful time. And that goes without saying, because now people come to us from far and wide. Like two Iranian boys now in Friesland. Their dad comes here with them every week to train. And they are very welcome, ”says Van Straten.
So the love of wrestling and the culture that prevails here seems to be international. “That’s right,” Van Straten says. “And you know, people also keep helping each other here. We don’t really get any subsidies, but it’s our own parents and members who take care of clothes and shoes, for example, because everyone understands that these people do not have money. “For this, more than for contributions. We just arrange it among ourselves.”
The strong presence of the ‘wrestling DNA’ is also evident from the fact that one of the former refugees, now the status holder, has been out of sight for a while but has just knocked on the door again. “Yes, it’s Mostafa from Iran. It was very clear. He’s got his life in order here and thinks he should give something back because we took such good care of him. He’s now a youth coach and the kids are running away. him. It’s not good. “
Currently, there are also a number of Ukrainian children. “They also struggled at home and miss it immensely. In any case, of course, it’s awful where they come from, so it’s great that they find peace and quiet and friends here. We are currently arranging some camps to sleep in the club for the first time after the corona era and of course these kids are enjoying the double. And you know what … One of the mothers called this week. She wants to give something back. We were able to plan her into the bar. She is happy, but so are we, because of course we also lack hands. ”