Football clubs across the country will be taking part in Amnesty International UK’s second Football Welcomes weekend next month to celebrate the contribution refugees have made to the professional game since the Second World War.
Football Welcomes, supported by a range of Premier League clubs, the English Football League and the FA Women’s Super League, will take place on 21-22 April.
The first Football Welcomes weekend took place last April, with 30 clubs participating. This year even more are set to take part.
Clubs will put on various events and activities over the weekend, from offering free tickets to a game to refugees and people seeking asylum living locally or putting on a tournament for refugees and others participating in their community programmes, to arranging a player visit or a stadium tour.
The Football Welcomes weekend last year marked the 80th anniversary of the arrival in the UK of some of the first refugees to play professional football here – Emilio Aldecoa, Sabin Barinaga, José Bilbao, Raimundo Pérez Lezama, and brothers José and Antonio Gallego. They were unaccompanied child refugees from the Spanish Civil War, evacuated to the UK after the bombing of Guernica on 26 April 1937.
Since then, players with a refugee background have been making their mark on the game, from Eric Cantona, Fabrice Muamba and Tresor LuaLua, to Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri and Crystal Palace’s Cristian Benteke, among others.
Football Welcomes is part of Amnesty UK’s I Welcome campaign for a better international response to the global refugee crisis. The campaign also encourages local communities to work together to welcome and show solidarity with people who have fled conflict and persecution.