This weekend (27-28 April), more than 160 football Clubs across the country (44 of those Clubs from the EFL) are taking part in Amnesty’s Football Welcomes initiative.
The campaign, now in its third year, sees football Clubs lay aside rivalries and come together to celebrate the contribution refugee players make to the beautiful game.
From a group of children fleeing the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s who went on to become some of the first refugees to play professionally here, to the likes of former Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba; ex-Manchester City forward Nadia Nadim; Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka; Dejan Lovren at Liverpool and Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke,players with a refugee background have been making their mark on the game for decades.
Backed by the EFL; a number of Premier League clubs; the FA Women’s Super League; the FA Women’s National League and grassroots and non-league teams across the country, Football Welcomes also aims to highlight the important role football clubs can play in welcoming refugees and people seeking asylum into their local communities, and in helping them to settle in to a new country and culture.
EFL Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey said:
“Football Welcomes highlights the vital role football and our 72 clubs can play in bringing their communities together. Refugees have made a significant and lasting contribution to professional football in this country and we are proud to support this important initiative to celebrate the impact they have had on the game, whilst also making local refugees and people seeking asylum feel welcome at EFL matches.”
Many other clubs around the country will be giving free match tickets to refugees and people seeking asylum living locally, arranging player visits or stadium tours, or organising a match or tournament for refugees and asylum seekers in their community programmes.
Naomi Westland, Football Welcomes Manager at Amnesty International UK said:
“Football clubs are at the heart of their communities and it’s great to see teams across the UK using the international language of football to create connection, respect and friendship across cultures. With so many people across the globe forced to abandon their homes due to conflict and instability, it’s important that football clubs use their platform to send out a clear message: refugees are welcome here.”