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Club News

Football Welcomes

20 April 2017

U's to support league wide campaign.

Colchester United FC will be joining football clubs across the country this weekend to celebrate the contribution refugees have made to football, as part of a new Amnesty International initiative.

Football Welcomes, a weekend of action for football clubs coordinated by Amnesty, marks the 80th anniversary of the arrival in the UK of some of the first refugees to play professional football here.

They were child refugees from the Spanish Civil War, evacuated to the UK after the bombing of Guernica on 26 April 1937.

One of the boys, Jose Gallego, went on to play for Colchester United, as well as Southampton, Brentford and Cambridge United, while others also joined Southampton, Coventry City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Norwich City.

Supported by a range of Premier League clubs, the English Football League and the FA Women’s Super League, Football Welcomes also aims to highlight the important role football clubs can play in promoting community cohesion.

The U’s will be helping to tell the story about the contribution of the Spanish Civil War  refugees in their match programme, as part of a wider Football in the Community Day for the game against Plymouth Argyle this weekend.

The club will begin to look at other ways to work closely with groups in the town supporting refugees.

Other clubs around the country will be offering free tickets for a match to refugees living locally, arranging player visits or stadium tours or organising tournaments for young refugees in their community programmes.

A more recent refugee player for the club, Lomana Tresor Lua Lua, fled the Democratic Republic of Congo with his father when he was nine, in the late 1980s.

Colchester United’s Media Manager Matt Hudson said: "We are pleased to support the Football Welcomes weekend.

"Lomana Tresor Lua Lua was one of our best ever players and is still very fondly remembered in this part of the footballing world, so we hope that the Football Welcomes event is a huge success for all concerned."

Lua Lua and his father were held in a detention centre for two months before leaving to live with an aunt in East London. Spotted by a Colchester United scout after playing for his school's team, he was invited for a trial and signed with the club. He later went on to play for Newcastle United and Portsmouth.  

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said: " "We are delighted that so many football clubs are embracing this. They have a key role to play in helping to promote respect, understanding and integration.

Refugees have made an important contribution to this much-loved game and to their communities throughout the years.

"Eighty years on from the bombing of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War, horrific violence is again forcing many people to flee their homes, leaving everything behind as they look for safety elsewhere.

"We’re very pleased to be working with football clubs to help make refugees who have come to the UK feel welcome.

"This is the first year of Football Welcomes and we’d love it to become a key fixture in the football calendar for years to come.”

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.

Shaun Harvey, EFL Chief Executive, said: " "Just this month in the Checkatrade Trophy Final the opening goal was scored by Gael Bigirimana, who moved to England in 2004 from Burundi, a goal that helped secure his club a memorable victory at Wembley.

The EFL is proud to be supporting Amnesty International's Football Welcomes campaign to recognise the significant and lasting contribution refugees have made to the professional game over the past 80 years.

"Our 72 clubs are at the very heart of our communities across England and Wales and have an integral part to play in community cohesion."

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