SUFFOLK FA are joining football clubs across the country this month to welcome refugees and people seeking asylum, as part of Amnesty International’s Football Welcomes campaign.
The campaign is now in its fifth year and celebrates the contribution players from a refugee background make to the game as well as highlighting the role football can play in bringing people together to create more welcoming communities for refugees.
Football Welcomes comes this year during the biggest refugee crisis Europe has seen since the Second World War. Images and stories of people fleeing Ukraine have once again shown the plight of refugees, the trauma they face when fleeing conflict, and the need for countries and communities around the world to welcome them.
To mark the month, which is supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, we are delivering an Iftar event at Needham Market FC on Wednesday, April 27th.
Suffolk FA Football Development Officer Kirsty Smith (Growth) said: “We will be working with various people and organisations to transport the refugees to the venue and provide free food and drink to all involved.
“We have also been successful in linking and developing a partnership between ITFC Community Trust and Suffolk Refugee Centre to deliver a free football session at Portman Road on Thursday evenings. We are also in discussions with the Community Trust about developing other refugee hubs in other areas of Suffolk.
“We have also secured kit, equipment and football boots for over 50 refugees over the last four weeks, which will help them safely engage in the regular football provision we are looking to provide.
“The Amnesty International Football Welcomes campaign is something we are proud to take part in every year as a County FA. Football is a universal language and a game that should be accessible and enjoyed by all.
“With everything that is going on in the world right now, it has never been more important to use football as a powerful tool to help integrate refugees within Suffolk communities.
Every one of them will have their own journey and story to tell so if we can help make things a little bit easier or give them some familiarity of home by enabling them to play regular football that is the least we can do as the County FA.
“If any of the clubs/teams/players within Suffolk would like to get involved with this project there is many different ways they can help.
“Supporting and promoting this campaign through social media channels is one, if they would like to donate any boots, kit or equipment they can contact us at Suffolk FA.
“April is the month where we use this programme to highlight the importance of these issues, but it also something we want to sustain all year round, year on year.
“Our grassroots game is inclusive and we want to provide opportunities for everyone to access football and help break down those barriers.
Suffolk FA are one of many organisations from across the Premier League, English Football League, FA Women’s Super League, Championship and National League, Cymru North and South, and the grassroots game that have signed up to take part in Football Welcomes.
Naomi Westland, Head of Football Welcomes at Amnesty International UK, said: “The current refugee crisis in Ukraine shines a light on the importance of welcoming refugees wherever they're from, whether it’s Ukraine, Afghanistan, Eritrea or elsewhere. Football Welcomes is a great initiative to do this.
“It’s heartening to see organisations like Suffolk FA using football as a powerful force for good, bringing people together and a providing a sense of belonging.
“With the support from the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, Amnesty will continue to welcome refugees alongside football clubs across the country to show there is more that unites us than divides us.”