European football fans, clubs unite for refugees


Fans of Glasgow's Celtic FC.

All 80 clubs competing in Europe's two most prestigious football competitions — the UEFA Champions League and Europa League — will donate €1 from tickets sold for their opening game towards refugees.

The “Let's play for the migrants!” initiative, first proposed by Portuguese side FC Porto, is expected to raise between €2 million and €3 million.

The September 7 decision by the European Club Association (ECA) is just the latest in a continental-wide outpouring of solidarity by football (soccer) fans and clubs.

Unsurprisingly, it was fans that took the lead, with club supporters from several Bundesliga teams in Germany speaking out over the weekend of August 29 and 30.

Although not the first time fans had taken such action, images of Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, St Pauli and Werder Bremen supporters, among others, displaying “Refugees Welcome” banners quickly began circulating on social media.

However, it was the tragic images that appeared on September 2 of Alan Kurdi, the refugee boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea — and the huge outpouring of solidarity it unleashed — that prompted clubs to get on board.

Bayern Munich announced the next day it would raise €1 million for the cause and provide football kits, training camps and German-language classes for refugees in Bavaria.

Borussia Dortmand and St Pauli players held up a “Refugees Welcome” banner at their September 9 friendly match. One thousand refugees were invited to attend the match, with proceeds from the game going to help refugees.

Clubs in other countries have since followed suit. Scottish club Celtic FC announced on September 3 it would donate a portion of money raised from a friendly match, while Spanish side Real Madrid and French Club Paris Saint-Germain said they would donate more than €1 million each to help refugees.

Italian club AS Roma took the step of launching a new charity “Football Cares” on September 8, inviting clubs and fans from across the world to get onboard. The idea is to raise funds via donations and auctions.

To kick-start the project, the Serie A club has donated more than €500,000 and put jerseys worn by some of the clubs most popular players up for auction.

No English team has yet taken similar steps, but fans from clubs including Aston Villa, Norwich Charlton Athletic and Swindon Town announced plans to bring pro-refugee banners to games.

A Twitter campaign #RefugeesWelcome EFL was launched to encourage fans from all 92 teams in the top four English divisions to join in a “Day of Solidarity” on September 12.

Other fans have gotten behind the “Refugees are my football family” campaign, which is collecting club scarves to give to refugees in Calais. Thousands of refugees are camping in the French town in the hope of reaching Britain. The campaign is also raising money for Doctors of the World, which helps run medical clinics in refugee camps across Europe, including Calais.

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