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Football Welcomes

Saido Berahino

Image by: Phil Greig

PUBLISHED

08:00 20th April 2017

Potters to mark contribution refugees have made to football...

STOKE CITY will be joining football clubs across the country this weekend to celebrate the contribution refugees have made to football, as part of a new Amnesty International initiative.

Football Welcomes, a weekend of action for football clubs coordinated by Amnesty, marks the 80th anniversary of the arrival in the UK of some of the first refugees to play professional football here.

They were child refugees from the Spanish Civil War, evacuated to the UK after the bombing of Guernica on 26 April 1937, who went on to play for Southampton, Coventry City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Brentford, Norwich City, Colchester United and Cambridge United.

Supported by a range of Premier League clubs, the English Football League and the FA Women’s Super League, Football Welcomes also aims to highlight the important role football clubs can play in promoting community cohesion.

Other clubs around the country will be offering free tickets for a match to refugees living locally, arranging player visits or stadium tours or organising tournaments for young refugees in their community programmes.

The weekend of action has the backing of Potters star Saido Berahino, who himself came to the UK as a refugee.

He said: “I’m proud to support Amnesty International’s Football Welcomes initiative – it’s an issue that is so close to my heart.

“I grew up in Burundi and lost my father in the Civil War there. We had to leave the country in the hope of a better life and although I was separated from my mother for two years, I eventually made it to the UK.

“I’ve been given a second chance in England. I’m so grateful for the support I’ve been given and the chance to turn your life around is something that every refugee deserves.”

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said: “Refugees have made an important contribution to this much-loved game and to their communities throughout the years. We are delighted that so many football clubs are embracing this. They have a key role to play in helping to promote respect, understanding and integration.

“Eighty years on from the bombing of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War, horrific violence is again forcing many people to flee their homes, leaving everything behind as they look for safety elsewhere. We’re very pleased to be working with football clubs to help make refugees who have come to the UK feel welcome. This is the first year of Football Welcomes and we’d love it to become a key fixture in the football calendar for years to come.”

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.

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