Spanish giant Real Madrid has become the latest football club to come to the aid of refugees arriving in Europe after announcing on Saturday that it will donate €1 million ($1.1 million) to help displaced people taken in by Spain.
“Faithful to its commitment to charity, the club has taken this decision with the aim of supporting men, women and children who have been forced to leave their homes in order to flee from war and death,” read a statement on the Real Madrid’s website.
The president of the 10-time European Cup winners, Florentino Perez, confirmed the move after
discussing the issue with Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy by phone Friday, the club said.
“(Real Madrid) is considering various initiatives and schemes with a special focus placed on the
youngest refugees,” the statement continued.
“It will also make some of the club’s infrastructure and sports goods available to the (Spanish
government’s) inter-ministerial commission that organizes the system for receiving refugees.”
Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, currently on international duty with Portugal, also took to Twitter Friday to weigh in on the issue which has dominated news reports and front pages across the continent in the past week.
“No one at the national team is indifferent to Europe’s refugee crisis. All our thoughts are with
those people,” he wrote.
No one at the National Team is indifferent to Europe’s refugee crisis. All our thoughts are with those people. pic.twitter.com/Gf9wvXEuNJ
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) September 3, 2015
Spanish PM Rajoy stated this week that Spain would take its “fair share” of refugees although his
political opponents at home have demanded he do more.
The Iberian nation has so far committed to receiving just under 3,000 displaced people this year. Yet that number pales compared to Germany which has stated it expects to provide shelter for 800,000 refugees from Syria alone during the same period.
In support of their government, German football clubs and fans have been among the most vociferous and generous in campaigning on the refugee issue in recent weeks.
A number of fan groups have displayed banners reading “Refugees Welcome” at matches while clubs such as Hamburg have offered to house refugee camps in stadium car parks and arranged
matches to raise funds for new arrivals in the country after escaping conflict zones.
Reigning German league champion Bayern Munich announced its own $1.1 million donation to the refugee cause last week. It also released details of training camps which will offer meals and language classes to refugee children.
In the north of the country, Bayern’s likely title rival Borussia Dortmund offered free match tickets to 200 refugees for its Europa League tie with Odds Ballklubb last week. Dortmund also issued a statement declaring that Germany needs migrants and that the country’s social security system will fall apart without them.
220 Flüchtlinge des Projekts “Angekommen in Dortmund”, zu Gast bei #bvbodd . #refugeeswelcome pic.twitter.com/CJA2QfmiAG
— Borussia Dortmund (@BVB) August 29, 2015
Elsewhere in Germany, Bundesliga clubs Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen have invited refugees to lead out their players on match days as club mascots while the German national team has released a video calling for solidarity and warning against
According to Ceylan Hussein, a former press officer at German second tier club, St Pauli, the reaction of fans has been important in publicizing the plight of
refugees and encouraging action.
“The consensus is that, given its vast audience, football is a magnificent stage for an appeal such as this,” Hussein said.
“Club and fans are known to be continuously calling for more people to accept social responsibility. This isn’t for the good of the game, it’s for the good of humanity,” she added.
These powerful fan sentiments have spread rapidly across the continent in the past few weeks.
Let’s see how many #RefugeesWelcome banners
we can get in English football grounds on 12th September! Please share! https://t.co/CInShXNu4q
— #RefugeesWelcome EFL (@RefugeesEFL)
September 2, 2015
In England, talk of supporter groups showing their solidarity with refugees has been growing. Many
have taken to social media to advocate the display of positive banners and statements to coincide with the next round of Premier League fixtures.
Scottish champions Celtic — whose Green Brigade ultras group was among the first to display banners reading “Refugees Welcome” back in 2007 in
reference to Celtic’s founding by Irish immigrants fleeing the Irish potato famine in the late nineteenth century — has also vowed to donate the proceeds
of a friendly match this weekend to refugee charities.
Given the strength of feeling among fan groups on the issue, and with refugees continuing to pour into
the continent in search of safety and shelter, these are unlikely to be the last gestures of kindness in
the weeks and months ahead.