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Magpies celebrate refugees' contribution to football

Newcastle United is joining football clubs across the country 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.

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

As part of the initiative, the Magpies will welcome 30 people from the West End Refugee Service (WERS) in Arthur’s Hill to Monday’s game against Preston North End as special guests.

Newcastle United welcomes people from all backgrounds and is proud to support the Football Welcomes campaign.

Sarah Smart, coordinator at WERS, said: "The West End Refugee Service welcomes asylum seekers and refugees from around the world.

"WERS wants to say a big thank you to those asylum seekers and refugees who are offering their free time to help others and we are thrilled to have given out the tickets offered by Newcastle United to these refugees and their families.

"Sport is a great way to bring people together, allowing people to form friendships around a common interest, therefore the donation of these tickets via Newcastle United Foundation is a wonderful gesture of welcome."

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: “Refugees have made an important contribution to this much-loved game and their communities throughout the years. 

"We are delighted that so many football clubs, who lie at the heart of these communities, are embracing this. They have a key role to play in helping to promote respect, understanding and integration."

Shaun Harvey, EFL chief executive, said: "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.

“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.

"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.”

Bigirimana joined Newcastle United from Coventry in 2012, making 25 appearances and scoring one senior goal in four years on Tyneside. He returned to the Sky Blues in 2016.

Other refugee footballers to pull on the Magpies' famous black and white shirt include former Finland international Shefki Kuqi, who fled violence and persecution in Kosovo as a child.

To find out more about the West End Refugee Service, please visit www.wers.org.uk.

"We are thrilled to have given out the tickets offered by Newcastle United to refugees and their families."

Sarah Smart, West End Refugee Service

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