We interview the former Newcastle United reserve and refugee of the Democratic Republic of Congo on his experiences as a refugee in the UK
I thought that I had it bad, but I know of other stories from my home country that would shock people. When I hear of those things it makes me grateful that my dad made the decision for my sister and I to escape.
Patrick Nzuzi, professional footballer with Limerick F.C
Show Racism the Red Card interviewed professional footballer Patrick Nzuzi who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC) and sought refuge in the UK.
Patrick had secured a contract with Newcastle United but has since moved on and currently plays for Limerick F.C. in Ireland.
What was life like in the Democratic Republic of Congo before the change of government?
Life was good. I went to school and really enjoyed it. My favourite subject at school was PE and I really enjoyed science too. I liked playing football and from a young age people said that I was good at it. In my spare time I would play with friends and hang out. The community in the DRC was really tight; everyone knew everyone and it was a really lively place. I lived with my mum, dad, brother and sister. My dad was really into politics and worked for the government and my mum stayed at home to look after the family.
Can you tell us what happened to change this?
It all started to go wrong for my family when the government changed hands and a new leader was elected. The new government basically started to go after everyone who was involved with the old government. They started to threaten the families of these people. My dad knew it would be us soon and started to think it would be best for us to leave the country.
How did you end up fleeing your home?
I left the DRC with my sister in the middle of the night. At the time she was 17 and I was 12. My dad passed us onto his friend to make sure we could get out the country safely. I cannot remember any of the journeys because I was in such a shock. I did not know what was happening or where I was going.
My sister and I were sent to live with a foster family in England. It was SO different to my home in the DRC.
What were your first impressions of the UK?
Everybody was friendly to me but I didn’t know anybody and that was a very lonely feeling. At that time I was the only black child who lived there. I miss how everybody in the DRC lived like one big family but the way the
government started treating people was too much for my family.
I thought that I had it bad, but I know of other stories from my home country that would shock people. When I hear of those things it makes me grateful that my dad made the decision for my sister and I to escape. I got involved in playing football in England and I was accepted into the academy at Newcastle United which was great.
What is the current situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo?
Obviously we didn’t act as quick as we should have as my mum, dad and brother are still in the DRC and I have not heard anything from my family since I left in the middle of the night. I do not know what has happened to my family but I fear that the worst has happened to them.
Do you now think of the UK as your home?
Part of me still feels Congolese but because I have been here so long I feel like I belong here too.
I am now a British citizen. I cannot go back to the DRC because things are still too dangerous in my country.
Maybe after my football career I will be able to return to the DRC; I hope so much that I will see my family again.