On Saturday Brentford FC Community Sports Trust teamed up with QPR in the Community to celebrate the contribution refugee players make to the beautiful game, as part of Amnesty International’s Football Welcomes initiative.
Ahead of the west London derby with QPR, young people from Brentford’s Premier League Kicks project played a memorable match against young participants from QPR’s community coaching programme. Many of the young players who took part had parents or grandparents who originally came to the UK as refugees.
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.
Fifteen-year-old Ali Sohrabi, who took part in the match on behalf of Brentford, said:
“My parents are from Afghanistan and Mongolia so events like this are really important for me. It’s a great way to bring people from all backgrounds together; I think football can be a powerful mechanism in solving any divisions in the local community.”
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.
Just before kick-off, the young people stood on Griffin Park’s hallowed turf and took part in the exciting guard of honour – while wearing the iconic Football Welcomes shirts.
Naomi Westland, Football Welcomes Manager at Amnesty International UK said:
“We are delighted Brentford FC is 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.”
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