Reading FC is proud to be participating in Amnesty’s Football Welcomes initiative this weekend to celebrate the contribution refugee players make to the beautiful game.
For many refugee players, football helped them adjust to a new country and culture and as they and their families rebuilt their lives in safety.
Supported by a range of Premier League clubs, the EFL, the FA Women’s Super League, and a number of non-league and grassroots teams, Football Welcomes also highlights the role clubs can play in welcoming refugees and asylum seekers and promoting integration.
Many other clubs around the country will be taking part in the Football Welcomes weekend - giving tickets to a match for 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.
On Saturday, we'll welcome players and representatives from Sanctuary Strikers Football Club to our final home fixture of the season.
The team was established by Reading Refugee Support Group in the summer of 2017, with the help of an FA grant and support from other local organisations.
The group's vision is to promote integration, wellbeing and hope in the community. It has brought together players from a refugee background and others from the local community to play together in Sunday league football – but the club can only operate through donations and sponsorship to cover the costs of facilities, equipment and referees.
If you are interested in getting involved with the Sanctuary Strikers in any way, please visit the website at rrsg.org.uk or follow the team on Facebook.
Naomi Westland, Football Welcomes Manager at Amnesty International UK, said:
“We are delighted Reading 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.
“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.”
Football Welcomes is part of Amnesty International’s I Welcome campaign for a better international response to the global refugee crisis. The campaign encourages local communities to work together to create a more welcoming environment for people fleeing conflict and persecution.
To find out more visit www.amnesty.org.uk/footballwelcomes