How a Wrestling Club Became My New Home in Germany
new neighbours

How a Wrestling Club Became My New Home in Germany

Although my teammates and I speak different languages, we are a team.
May 29, 2017, 5:00am

This article is part of our New Neighbours series, in which young refugees from across Europe guest edit VICE.com. Click here to read an introduction.

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Mustafa is 22 and from Damascus in Syria. He arrived in Berlin a year ago, where he lives in a dormitory for refugees.

I started wrestling four months ago. I never wrestled in Syria, though I did have the occasional scuffle with my brother, cousins and mates (but with less rules or tactics and more dirty tricks). My friend Abdul lives in the same dormitory in Berlin as me. He took me along to his wrestling club one time, and I immediately loved it.

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These days we wrestle here together, three times a week. I get on with everyone, although we don't all speak the same language – there are Russian, Arabic, Polish and German guys here. We don't talk a lot, but I think you can say that we communicate with movement and really have become best friends through that. My friend Saleh, who speaks better German than I do, was happy to translate this article from Arabic to German for me.

Mustafa (right) and Saleh at training. Photos by Nicolas Schwaiger, who has been following the wrestlers of Weddinger Löwen for three months.

I loved wrestling from my first lesson. I do get frustrated sometimes when someone is stronger than me or I can't do a move. But when that happens, my trainer demonstrates the move again and just tells me to try again, but slower. He really motivates and supports me when I get stuck. Wrestling requires a lot of energy. I'm used to endurance training because I play football, but after the first wrestling training session I was absolutely exhausted. But I love it, because it makes you stronger and braver than any other sport. Football has become more of a social game for me rather than a sport.

My day starts at 9AM. I have a language class until 1PM and an integration course until 2PM. During that course, I learn a lot about German culture and ethics. We've also already gone on two outings – one to the Environmental Protection Centre and another to the Egyptian museum. I also go to the mosque once a week. Otherwise I don't go out much, but instead go back to the dormitory after classes and cook. On the days that I have wrestling training, I prepare a lot of food – mainly potatoes and chicken. I learnt how to cook Arabic dishes at my school in Syria, and I think I've gotten pretty good at it.

Training lasts from 8PM to 9.30PM. I get home exhausted afterwards, but will usually stay up talking on my phone until about 1AM. I mostly talk to my siblings on Facebook and WhatsApp. My parents died in Syria but my siblings still live there.

I'm currently trying to find a job, but I wouldn't want it to interfere with my training. I want to keep getting better at it and take part in as many championships as possible, as soon as I'm ready for it. I know that I have have a long way to go – but my trainer says I might be ready for my first friendly tournament sometime soon.

Until then, I'll keep on training. I'm always punctual, shake everyone's hand and exchange a few words with my teammates before we start. We take out the mats together and put them back afterwards. The club means a lot to me and I am very grateful to be here.

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The Weddinger Löwen charges members €10 a month, but that's not enough to buy the wrestling mats they need to properly practise. If you'd like to support the team, you can do so by donating €5 in the donation account of The Weddinger Löwen – IBAN: DE23 1001 0010 0095 7241 03 / BIC: PBNKDEFF