The early loss of his parents led Abubacarr to leave his home country The Gambia at 16 and seek a fresh start by migrating to Europe.
His journey began on 2 February 2016, along with several friends.
“I left The Gambia for Senegal,” he recalls. “On the day I was leaving, most of my friends told me not to go – I wept – but I felt I had to go.”
His route took him across the Sahara desert. “I spent two weeks in Senegal, and moved on to Mali for three weeks. I passed through Burkina Faso and Niger, and then arrived in Libya, where I stayed for three months.”
As has been the case with so many other migrants from Africa, Libya was the departure point to cross the Mediterranean by boat to Italy. The sea crossings can be fraught with peril, and his crossing brought a tragic event.
“[Me and my friends] were on the same boat, sailing,” he remembers. “But the boat developed a fault. We were not sitting together – water engulfed the boat at the end where my friends were sitting.
“One of my friends fell into the water with others who were sitting with him. He called out my name, but I couldn’t help because I was trying to save my own life, and they drowned.”
When he reached Sicily, he took his first fledgling steps in his new life in the city of Messina, before being relocated to the SPRAR centre in the town of Giammoro, on the northern Sicilian coast.
The centre is home to a small group of youngsters aged 15–18 who are attending Italian language classes and learning additional life skills.
Tree-planting, watering and using his cooking skills occupy his working time and on his free time, he plays football, an overriding passion since his childhood.
He shows talent as a player. “I feel happy when playing football. I love football,” he says.
The SPRAR centre footballers play at a training ground near the town of Milazzo, and football has helped them bond as a group of friends.
“Football brought us together and made us one family,” Abu reflects. “We are there for each other.”
The story of Abubacarr touched the Italian football legend Francesco Totti, among many in football.
— Francesco Totti (@Totti) January 16, 2018
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said: “This story clearly illustrates that football can be an important tool for the integration of migrants in Europe,”
“I am pleased that this project in Sicily, supported by the FIGC, is helping young African migrants integrate into European society and culture.”
The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) is supporting a scheme dedicated to the development of the potential of youngsters in difficulty through a campaign built across football and enhancing the values it brings to society.
Watch Abubacarr’s video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28-73TZdnJk