Burnley FC 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 became some of the first refugees to play professionally here, to Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren, Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, Christian Benteke at Crystal Palace, Charlton Athletic WFC’s Liz Ejupi and ex-Manchester City forward Nadia Nadim. Players with a refugee background have been making their mark on the game for decades.
Michael Colquhoun, who heads up BFCitC’s Clarets Welcome project, said: “We are delighted to be supporting Amnesty International’s Football Welcomes weekend. A large number of refugees and resettled families have moved to the Burnley and East Lancashire area, particularly families who have experienced conflict and displacement in Syria.
“We are proud to play a part in supporting these families and making refugees feel part of our community. Not only do they have the chance to play regular football, we are also helping them with possible pathways to employment through volunteering opportunities which further helps their integration into the community. The Football Welcomes weekend promotes such work on a national scale.”
The weekend, which is supported by the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, is also backed by Premier League clubs across the country, as well as the FA Women’s Super League; the English Football 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 into their local communities, and in helping them to settle in to a new country and culture.
Burnley FC Women, operated by BFCitC, are also supporting the initiative ahead of their fixture at home to Newcastle United Women’s FC on Sunday.
Pictured above: Burnley FC Women’s Vikki Eastwood, Sarah Greenhalgh and captain Jo Holt
This year’s event is set to be the biggest yet, with many other clubs 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.
Participants from the Clarets Welcome project will be in attendance at the Clarets’ home game against Manchester City FC on Sunday.
Pictured above: Clarets Welcome participants with BFCitC staff
Naomi Westland, Football Welcomes Manager at Amnesty International UK, said: “We are delighted that Burnley FC 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 persecution, it’s important that football clubs use their platform to send out a clear message: refugees are welcome here.”