Stoke striker Saido Berahino welcomes initiative to mark 80th anniversary of arrival in UK of some of the first refugees to play professional football here
21 April ~ This weekend football clubs across the country will celebrate the contribution refugees have made to the professional game since the Second World War.
Football Welcomes, a new Amnesty International initiative supported by a range of Premier League clubs, the Football League and the Women’s Super League, will take place on Saturday and Sunday, ahead of the 80th anniversary of the arrival in the UK of some of the first refugees to play professional football here – Emilio Aldecoa (Wolves and Coventry), Sabino Barinaga (Southampton), José Bilbao (Coventry), Raimundo Pérez Lezama (Southampton), and brothers José (Brentford, Southampton, Colchester and Cambridge United) and Antonio Gallego (Norwich). They were unaccompanied child refugees from the Spanish Civil War, evacuated to the UK after the bombing of Guernica on 26 April 1937.
Clubs will organise various activities over the weekend, from offering free tickets to a game for refugees living locally, to putting on a tournament for refugees participating in their community programmes, to arranging a player visit to a community group working with refugees.
Football Welcomes is part of Amnesty UK’s I Welcome campaign for a better international response to the global refugee crisis. The campaign launched in September and has a focus on local activities to promote community cohesion and solidarity with people who have fled conflict and persecution.
Stoke City striker Saido Berahino, who supporters the initiative, said: “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.”