Family: Comfort’s Angels
Comfort's Angels, a football team founded by Comfort Etim, provides a sense of belonging for refugees and asylum seekers. This team is proof of the transformative power of football as they weave together an extraordinary family
Photography by Inès Hachou
Family, as Comfort Etim defines it, extends far beyond blood relations. Leaving her homeland of Nigeria as a refugee meant being separated from her immediate family. But amidst the challenges, she discovered a new family in the people she met along her journey. Comfort’s Angels, the football team she founded, is a testament to the power of forging deep connections in the face of adversity. Comprised of refugees, asylum seekers, and women from diverse backgrounds, Comfort’s Angels provides a safe haven—a true sense of family—for those who have experienced displacement and longing for a place to belong. In a heartfelt conversation with Comfort, she shares her personal journey, the significance of the team’s name, and the impact they strive to make. In the world of Comfort’s Angels, football is not just a game—it’s a catalyst for change, a source of comfort, and the thread that weaves together an extraordinary family.
Glorious: Tell us Comfort, what does family mean to you?
Comfort: Family, to me, is not necessarily blood-related. It’s the people around you who accept you for who you are, love you unconditionally, stand by you, and are there for you regardless of your flaws. My own family hasn’t been around me for years now, as I left Nigeria and came to the UK as a refugee to pursue a career in football, so the people around me have become my family. I have my children who are family, but in terms of my mother, father, and siblings, they have been away from me for a while. So the people I now consider family are the ones I’ve met since then, even though they are not blood-related. We use the word “family” for them, and they are the people we see as family.
Glorious: That must have been really hard for you at such a young age to leave your country and your family?
Comfort: Definitely. I grew up being close to my mum and siblings, and it was really difficult for me not to speak or see them for a long time. I had the opportunity to go back to Nigeria in 2018 to see them after 14 years of being apart. It was a dream come true, but I haven’t seen them since then. My three children, for example, have never seen their grandparents. It was hard, but my faith in God has always comforted and reassured me. Now, I have my own children, which has compensated for the time I was alone.
Glorious: You have created a football team called Comfort’s Angels, which includes refugees and asylum seekers. As you found yourself in a similar situation to these women, you must understand how they are feeling and how this team is more than just football, it’s a family?
Comfort: Absolutely. When I had my baby daughter 8 months ago, I felt surrounded by love from the women who are part of Comfort’s Angels. They are like my family, even though we are not blood-related. They took care of me and made sure I was fine while I was playing or working. Many of them haven’t seen their own families for a long time, so they can relate to the feeling. Comfort’s Angels is like an unbreakable bond, and even if the players change due to being dispersed to different cities, the experience and memories we create together are something they will always remember. We have created a sisterhood among women from different parts of the world, and it’s mind-blowing for me.
Glorious: How did the name Comfort’s Angels come about?
Comfort: I think the beauty of Comfort’s Angels is that when you hear the name, you wouldn’t even know who’s involved. The name didn’t come from me, and I like to make that clear, it’s not even my real name! We needed to come up with a name because we couldn’t just go by anything. I wanted us to have structure, a definition of who we are, and the strategies we use to move forward. Everyone was suggesting different names, but they all wanted to incorporate “comfort” because that’s what it meant to them. They felt comfortable in our group, like they could fill a void and fly with other women. So, the name Comfort’s Angels stuck, along with our “together we fly” logo. It’s beautiful to see women from different parts of the world coming together.
Glorious: That’s wonderful! You mentioned visiting initial accommodations, how does the system work for these women?
Comfort: The initial accommodations are where women or men, primarily women, are placed when they arrive from their home countries. They stay there until they are dispersed to temporary houses provided by the home office. Some stay in the initial accommodations for months or years until they are relocated to different cities like Liverpool or Manchester. The idea of Comfort’s Angels is to provide support and empowerment to these women, not just in football but also by giving them information and connecting them to organisations that can help. We engage with other women through referrals from Liverpool City Council and others who support what we do. We also welcome any woman who wants to join, not just refugees or asylum seekers.
Glorious: How does Comfort’s Angels support women with children? You must be a Godmother several times over!
Comfort: Well, I try to be. All of us love and care for all the children, they are our little angels, not just to me but for everyone in the group. We treat each other like mothers to the children. When we play football, we take turns looking after the kids so their mums can enjoy a game. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, we can’t provide childcare during matches. That’s why we’re hoping to get funding, as we want to create a safe space for the children.
Glorious: That’s great. You really bring a lot to the team. How many players are there and do you compete against other football teams?
Comfort: Yeah, so on a good day, we have over 50 players. But it’s a dynamic group, and players come and go. We have a strong core team that is always there, and we welcome new players with open arms. We have players from different backgrounds, different ages, and different skill levels. It’s a diverse and inclusive squad, which is one of the things I love about Comfort’s Angels. We believe that football brings people together, and everyone is welcome to join us, regardless of their experience or background. We love challenges, so we participate in various tournaments and leagues.
Glorious: That’s fantastic. It’s great to see such inclusivity and diversity within your team. So, what are your goals for Comfort Angels moving forward?
Comfort: Our goals are twofold. Firstly, we want to continue providing a supportive and empowering environment for women, especially those who are asylum seekers and refugees. We want them to feel like they have a family here, to find comfort and friendship, and to have opportunities to play football and engage in other activities. We will keep organising tournaments, participating in leagues, and connecting with other teams and organisations to promote integration and provide a sense of belonging.
Secondly, we aim to expand our reach and impact. We want to establish more teams in different cities, like Manchester, to create similar safe spaces for women to come together, play football, and build relationships. We also want to secure funding to offer childcare services during our sessions, making it easier for mums to participate. Additionally, we want to collaborate with organisations and community partners to provide resources and support for women beyond football, such as access to education, employment opportunities, and social services.
Glorious: I’m sure Comfort Angels will continue to make a positive difference in the lives of many women. Is there anything else you would like to share about your journey or the team?
Comfort: I just want to express my gratitude to all the amazing women who are part of Comfort’s Angels, past and present. Their strength, resilience, and unity inspire me every day. Together, we have created a sisterhood and a sense of community that goes beyond football. We are there for each other, supporting and uplifting one another. It’s a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of.