Eastern European Outreach > Balkan > Jutvari FC, Plovdiv, Bulgaria

FC Hosanna 

Segun Philips, a Nigerian ex-professional football player, started a football project under the name “FC Hosanna” in the Roma-gypsy ghetto with more than 50,000 people, of which 85% are Turkish Muslim. The team started 15 years ago after an evangelistic outreach in the ghetto. There were no resources, but a vision of changing the lives of these young people living in this very poor ghetto for the better, reaching out to them with the “good news” of the Gospel. At the moment about 40 children get football training on a regular basis; one of the groups is also competing in a youth league.

Most of these boys were picked from the street; most of them never thought they could play football because of the bad news they received in the past that they were not healthy! But through playing in the team they have been able to prove that they can do it and they have hope for the future! This has happened through prayer and the power of Jesus.

Also in the area of education the team is making sure that its players go to school and study. The Roma life circumstances; having no food or clothes and shoes and no place and materials for the children to do their homework really makes it difficult for them to go to school. The hard life at home with drinking and fighting stands in the way as well. Segun therefore tries to help practically with food and clothes and the perspective to be a football-player. Segun has a good relationship with the local school. The boys are expected to go to school and do their best. If they do not go to school, they are not allowed to play. As these boys love football, this is the right motivation for them to behave and do their best at school.This all helped the parents to agree that their children could go to Hosanna, and even a Muslim delegation of the ghetto council who doubted about the project because of the Christian background, later declared its appreciation.

Character training is one of the top priorities for Segun. There are very clear rules, and also consequences, e.g. one of the boys was involved in a fight. Segun heard of this and banned the boy from playing for several weeks. He was only allowed to train by himself, but not with the rest of the team, neither was he allowed to be a part of the squad in the competition

Without realising, these boys are learning some very important life skills in character, self-discipline and respect.

Segun has also started a church in the ghetto Many of the boys from the team are joining in as well. This is very special as most of the people living in the ghetto are Turkish Roma. Most of the boys have a Muslim background. In the past years several of the boys have dedicated their life to the Lord and some of them have been baptised.

In 2008 an award winning documentary has been made about the Hosanna (previously known as FC Jutvari) football team. Jutvari was described as "an ambitious documentary and an inspiring programme, with a very original choice of subject", and was the unanimous choice of the jury. (read the whole article here)