Middlesbrough Football Club will be joining football clubs across the country this weekend (21-22 April) to celebrate the contribution refugee players make to the beautiful game, as part of Amnesty International’s Football Welcomes initiative.
Football Welcomes, a weekend of action now in its second year, highlights the role of refugee players in UK football – from a group of Spanish Civil War child refugees who sailed from Bilbao to Southampton in May 1937 and went on to play professionally here in the 1940s and 50s, to the likes of Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri and Manchester City Women’s Nadia Nadim today.
Supported by a range of Premier League clubs, the English Football League and the FA Women’s Super League, as well as grassroots and non-league teams, Football Welcomes also aims to highlight the important role football clubs can play in welcoming refugees and promoting integration.
To mark Football Welcomes, Middlesbrough FC Foundation will be visiting Derby County Community Trust for a football tournament for refugees and asylum seekers, ahead of Middlesbrough FC’s EFL Championship clash with the Rams on Saturday afternoon.
Our Club Together programme is one of a number of clubs across the country running regular football sessions for refugees and people seeking asylum in the Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton-On-Tees regions.
“We are thrilled to be taking part in this year’s Football Welcomes weekend with our Club Together group,” said Paul South, MFC Foundation’s Club Together Lead Coach.
“Our programme has gone from strength to strength, as we continue to work in partnership with the Methodist Asylum Project in Middlesbrough to provide refugees and asylum seekers to maintain their health and well being with safe and quality facilities to play football and have fun.
“Amnesty International UK do a terrific job of raising awareness of programme’s such as ours all over the country, and we are proud to be making a real difference the lives of many on Teesside.”
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 Middlesbrough FC are 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.
“Violence and persecution around the world are forcing people to flee their homes and look for safety in communities elsewhere, and a small number make it to the UK. 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.