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Reds in the Community is proud to be participating in Amnesty’s Football Welcomes initiative this weekend to celebrate the contribution refugee players make to the beautiful game.
From a group of Spanish Civil War child refugees who sailed from Bilbao to safety in Southampton in May 1937 and went on to play for the Saints, Wolves and Coventry in the 1940s and 50s, to former Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba, whose family escaped persecution in Zaire (today’s Democratic Republic of Congo) in the 90s, and the likes of Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri and Manchester City Women’s Nadia Nadim today, footballers with a refugee background have been making their mark on the most popular game in the world for decades.
For many refugee players, football helped them adjust to a new country and culture as they and their families rebuilt their lives in safety. Supported by a range of Premier League clubs, the EFL, the FA Women’s Super League, and a number of non-league and grassroots teams, Football Welcomes also highlights the role clubs can play in welcoming refugees and asylum seekers and promoting integration.
Last month, the Reds in the Community education first team faced a local refugee side at Oakwell in a friendly fixture before being presented with certificates, medals and posing for pictures.
The African Tigers team was founded by Jaber Abdullah in 2015 alongside a handful of friends but has grown remarkably since, now running two sides.
To mark this year’s Football Welcomes Weekend, RitC will be taking the refugee team to face a side representing the Leeds United Foundation.
After playing a friendly against the Whites, the players will have lunch before heading over to Elland Road to watch Barnsley FC’s Championship clash with Leeds.
We’re proud to be one of a number of clubs across the country running regular football sessions for refugees and people seeking asylum.
Reds in the Community have also supported the growth of Abdullah’s Tigers team through providing coaches, kit and footballs.
RitC Social Inclusion Officer Hannah Phillips said:
“We’re delighted that we can support such a great event in the Football Welcomes initiative. Football is a great tool for bringing communities together and we have already seen the positive impact that Jaber’s amazing efforts have had on his players’ lives. The chance to play against another professional football club will be great for them before the Tigers get to see the Barnsley first team face Leeds at Elland Road. Everyone at Reds in the Community thoroughly enjoyed hosting Jaber’s team in the match against one of our education teams and Saturday is sure to be another fantastic occasion.”
Many other clubs around the country will be taking part in the Football Welcomes weekend – giving free tickets to a match for 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:
“We are delighted Barnsley is taking part in Football Welcomes this year. With so many clubs across the country participating, the message from football is clear – refugees are welcome in the UK. At a time when hate-filled rhetoric so often fills our newspapers and social media timelines, this shows that there is another story to be told.
“Football can give people a sense of purpose and belonging, and football clubs are at the heart of our towns and cities and have an important role to play in welcoming refugees and helping to promote respect, understanding and integration.”
Football Welcomes is part of Amnesty International’s I Welcome campaign for a better international response to the global refugee crisis. The campaign encourages local communities to work together to create a more welcoming environment for people fleeing conflict and persecution.
To find out more visit www.amnesty.org.uk/footballwelcomes