Football Welcomes month is a chance to showcase initiatives to encourage and support asylum seekers and refugees – male and female – to settle into their local communities through the power of football.
The awareness campaign during April is supported by football clubs across the UK, who also come together to celebrate the contribution players from a refugee background make to the game.
LFC Foundation, Liverpool County FA and Amnesty International UK joined forces in 2019 to launch the three-year Football Welcomes Community Project.
The aim of the project is to create a more welcoming environment through football, with local organisations working together to help refugees and people seeking asylum to develop a sense of belonging and purpose.
Thanks to funding from Amnesty International, LFC Foundation and Liverpool County FA have already coached 200 male and female asylum seekers and refugees through the programme.
LFC Foundation is the official charity of Liverpool Football Club, and its focus is to create life-changing opportunities for children and young people and their families in Liverpool and beyond.
Terri Ritchie, LFC Foundation inclusion manager, explained: “During the first two years we have provided coaches and training for our Football Welcomes Amnesty International teams, enabling refugees and asylum seekers to come along to play football and enjoy themselves in a safe space, and a welcoming and inclusive environment.
“The participants love the opportunity to play alongside people like themselves. You can see a real difference that interacting during the sessions can make. Some have gone on to study for football qualifications through the Liverpool County FA, while others have started volunteering roles.”
The Football Welcomes Community Project is based on Germany’s ‘Welcome to Football’ programme, under which the majority of the 36 clubs in the top two men’s divisions have linked up with a local refugee charity and local amateur club to welcome refugees and promote integration through football.
Comfort Etim, advocacy policy officer for Refugee Women’s Connect, added: “The teams are very diverse. When they are on the pitch playing football, it’s just a beautiful moment. It takes their minds away from everything they have been going through, it’s an escape for them, they interact and meet other women from the same background.
“Football has one language and the team helps to empower women, promote integration, and allow women to come together and have fun.”
There are two sessions a week. Men play at Anfield Sports and Community Centre on Thursdays from 2pm to 3pm, while the women’s session is 6pm to 7pm on Mondays at Tiber Street in Toxteth.
For more information about the programme, please email email@example.com.
Images show female and male sessions hosted by LFC Foundation and Liverpool County FA Amnesty. Please note, images were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures were introduced.