By Democrat reporter
MSP Jackie Baillie has backed Amnesty International’s Football Welcomes campaign as Dumbarton Football Club prepares to celebrate the contribution refugee players make to the beautiful game this weekend.
Football Welcomes, now in its third year, highlights the role of refugee players in UK football – from the children fleeing the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s who went on to become some of the first refugees to play professionally here – to some of football’s top names including Hibernian’s Gaël Bigirimana; ex-Manchester City forward Nadia Nadim; Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka; Dejan Lovren at Liverpool and Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke.
Backed by a number of clubs across Scotland and the SPFL Trust, Football Welcomes also aims to highlight the important role football clubs can play in welcoming refugees and people seeking asylum into their local communities, and in helping them to settle in to a new country and culture.
Many other clubs around the country – including Dumbarton Football Club- will be giving free match tickets to refugees and people seeking asylum living locally, arranging player visits or stadium tours, or organising matches.
Jackie Baillie, above right, said: “I am delighted to see that local football clubs across the country, including my own local team, Dumbarton FC, are giving out free match tickets to refugees as part of Amnesty International’s campaign ‘Football Welcomes Refugees’. This is a fantastic campaign with a very important message- refugees should and must be welcomed into every part of our society. I fully support this campaign and I’m sure that local football fans would agree with me in saying, ‘Dumbarton welcomes refugees.’”
Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International’s Scotland Programme Director, said: “We are delighted that clubs across the country are joining together to support Football Welcomes again this year. Football clubs are at the heart of their communities and we are so pleased to see Scottish football using the international language of football to create connection, respect, and friendship across cultures. With so many people across the globe forced to abandon their homes due to conflict and instability, it’s important that football clubs use their platform to send out a clear message: refugees are welcome in Scotland.”