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Top clubs launch football campaign in support of refugees

Communities / Sun 2nd Jun 2024 at 02:55pm

AS this football season closes and the Euros begin, Fair Shot launches, a football powered campaign which aims to unite a movement of fans across the country towards a goal of fairness and compassion for everyone, no matter where they come from. 

Fair Shot will partner with major clubs across the English league pyramid including Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham United with more to be added, who next season will each host friendly 5-a-side matches and other challenges for the clubs’ fans, and Fair Shot FC, a team of refugees and people seeking asylum. 

Fair Shot FC is a football squad made up of players from Afghanistan, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Namibia, Senegal, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Syria and The Gambia who have fled to the UK due to war and/or persecution in their home countries. They have come together through their shared love of football, the common language it provides and the positive impact playing it has on their lives. 

Fair Shot player, Manar, 25 years old, who fled the war in Syria, said on being part of the Fair Shot squad: “It’s everything, it’s like a dream. I feel nothing when I play football, so when I don’t play, I feel everything, like the problems. When I play the problems go away.” 

At the start of the next football season, clubs will launch a competition for their fans to have the chance to train and play side by side with Fair Shot FC in a friendly 5-a-side match and penalty shootout at the club’s training facilities, all wearing exclusively designed Fair Shot home and away kits. 

These matches will give the club’s fans and players from Fair Shot FC the opportunity to share their passion for football and engage in conversations that inform understanding and create connections, highlighting that within the football community there is far more that unites than divides.  

Football clubs are at the heart of their communities – they bring people together on and off the pitch giving them a sense of connection and belonging. Fair Shot’s club partners are already doing incredible work through their foundations, using the power of football to create positive and lasting change within their local communities.   

Tom Warren, Head of the Wolves foundation, on being a Fair Shot partner, said: “Without our fans and their loyalty to Wolves we would not be where we are today. Their support helps the players bring it on the pitch week in, week out through all the ups and downs of the season. Their support if also vital in helping us do our work within the community, making it a more accepting and cohesive place for everyone.  

“We are delighted to be part of the Fair Shot movement and look forward to hosting a game next season with the amazing Fair Shot FC, and our proud fans with the hope that it brings not only a day of fun, but an opportunity to create connections and mutual understanding.  

“We know the power football has to transcend borders and bring people together on and off the pitch. Everyone should have the chance to play and enjoy the beautiful game, in the same way everyone deserves the right to be treated with kindness and compassion. We at Wolves, and our fans strongly believe in that.”  

The players for Fair Shot FC have been selected from Refugee Council’s Youth Connect project and grassroots organisations who run football programmes across Essex, Surrey and Preston. They will be led by coach, David Simmons who runs Changing Lives FC, based in Harlow, the only competitive refugee football team in the UK.  

On launching Fair Shot, David Simmons, said“Football is the world’s game. In changing rooms up and down the country multiple languages will be spoken, with players from different countries and with different backgrounds. Despite that, they are united in their passion for football and the common language it provides.  

“Each player in our Fair Shot squad has had to overcome many challenges, finding themselves away from their homes, sometimes without their families, in order to find safety. Football has helped them rebuild their lives here, bringing them friendships, a sense of joy and belonging. 

“The pitch is a place where every player is equal. We hope that with Fair Shot we can use the power of football and the shared fan experience to show that there is far more that unites us than divides. Everyone deserves be treated with fairness and compassion, no matter where they come from. Everyone deserves a fair shot.” 

David will be assisted by Liubov Liushnenko, a refugee from Ukraine, who now plays for Lawford FC Women’s and coaches with Changing Lives, she said“I travelled alone to the UK after war broke out in Ukraine. Life was hard, but playing football has changed my life here. My team have become more like a family to me.  

“I personally understand what football can bring to the players of Fair Shot FC. Football is about fairness, and this is something I have felt from the British people who have welcomed me here. I hope this can be extended to everyone, who through no fault of their own have had to leave their homes to find peace here in the UK.” 

Fair Shot is supported by the Refugee Council, and Sport Relief, a fundraising campaign run by the charity, Comic Relief. 

Join the movement at fairshot.org.uk 

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