Middlesbrough Football Club is joining football clubs across the country this weekend (27-28 April) to celebrate the contribution refugee players make to the game, as part of Amnesty International’s Football Welcomes campaign.

Football Welcomes, now in its third year, highlights the role of refugee players in UK football. 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.

Middlesbrough Football Club midfielder Muhamed Besic recently said “I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t been part of a refugee family, it’s brilliant to see football clubs from across the country taking a stand to support refugees and to make them feel welcome.

In addition to this, Helena Bowman Head of MFC Foundation said “Middlesbrough Football Club is delighted to support Amnesty International’s Football Welcomes weekend and celebrate the contribution refugees have made to football and to our community”.

To mark the weekend, Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation’s Club Together group will be taking part in a celebration game against Rotherham United Community Sports Trust. The game will take place ahead of Middlesbrough FC`s EFL Championship clash with Reading on Saturday afternoon.

The 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 once again thrilled to be taking part in the Football Welcomes weekend which is getting bigger every year with our Club Together group,” said Paul South, MFC Foundation’s Club Together Lead Coach.

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:

“We are delighted that Middlesbrough Football Club is taking part in Football Welcomes. 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.”