Kick It Out is proud to be supporting in Amnesty’s Football Welcomes initiative this weekend to celebrate the contribution refugee players make to the beautiful game.

From a group of Spanish Civil War child refugees who sailed from Bilbao to safety in Southampton in May 1937 and went on to play for the Saints, Wolves and Coventry in the 1940s and 50s, to former Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba whose family escaped persecution in Zaire (today’s Democratic Republic of Congo) in the 90s, and the likes of Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri and Manchester City Women’s Nadia Nadim today, footballers with a refugee background have been making their mark on the most popular game in the world for decades.

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 English Football League, 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 free 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.

Naomi Westland, Football Welcomes Manager at Amnesty International UK, said: “We are delighted Kick It Out 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.