Soccer giants support refugees
Some of Britain’s top football clubs are reaching our in different ways to help refugees and asylum seekers.
Premier League heavyweight Arsenal, with the help of charity Save the Children, has launched the ‘Coaching for Life’ football program for young people in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.
Za’atari is home to 80,000 refugees who have fled the war in Syria, with children making up more than half of the population.
To help them deal with the trauma of their experiences and to cope with the stresses of everyday life at the camp, the children are playing football on pitches built with funding from the Arsenal Foundation.
Former Arsenal captain and now Academy manager Per Mertesacker visited the camp recently.
“When children suffer, we all lose. People here have fled their country and I have no experience of that, so I talked to them and learnt a lot. It was a privilege for me to visit,” Mr Mertesacker said.
“The young people I met focus on what is happening now and this project will give them courage to cope with the struggles they face day to day, as well as providing them with the skills to have a better future.”
Coaching for Life aims to reach 4,500 girls and boys over three years. It is made up of seven coaching modules that will address issues such as emotions, communication, decision making, self-esteem and conflict management.
Meanwhile, Arsenal, Celtic, Rangers and Tottenham are among 60 clubs across Britain that are taking part in Amnesty International’s second Football Welcomes initiative to celebrate the contribution refugees have made to the game.
The campaign, which has doubled in size in just three years, marks the anniversary of the arrival in the UK of a group of child refugees from the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Amazingly, six of the group would go on to play professional football in England.
Other Premier League clubs, including Arsenal, Everton, Stoke and Watford are promoting their community work in their match programs and online, while Newcastle and Southampton are putting on stadium tours for local refugee groups.
Leicester City supports weekly football sessions for refugees with a local charity and provides free tickets to games, West Ham’s foundation is putting on a morning of activities for young refugees and asylum seekers and Spurs and Swansea are inviting refugees to their next home games.
Crystal Palace’s foundation is releasing a short film about its work with a young Afghan refugee, while Huddersfield have invited asylum seekers and refugees for a training session and given away tickets to their next home game.
Amnesty UK’s Football Welcomes manager Naomi Westland said: “It’s wonderful to see even more clubs laying aside their rivalries this weekend and coming together to say refugees are welcome here”.
“At a time when politics is often dominated by hate-filled and divisive rhetoric, this shows that there is another story to be told,” she said.
Several lower tier clubs are also involved and non-league sides Bath City and Leyton Orient are offering free tickets to local groups, too.
English Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey said: “EFL clubs are at the heart of 72 communities across England and Wales and play a vital role in promoting integration, so I’m delighted to see so many showing their support and extending a warm welcome to refugees”.
My entire family went to different countries. The hardest thing was leaving my grandparents behind and trying to start a new life in a new country (but) people here have been really friendly and helped me adapt to this city.”
AMES Australia Senior Journalist