Pompey and today’s opponents Charlton are proud to be participating in Amnesty’s Football Welcomes initiative to celebrate the contribution refugee players make to the beautiful game.
To mark the event, the club are also backing a city arts gallery campaign to raise National Lottery funds for a refugee project.
Pompey star Nathan Thompson took time out of preparing for the game on Thursday to back the bid.
From a group of Spanish Civil War child refugees who sailed from Bilbao to safety in Southampton in May 1937 and went on to play in England in the 1940s and 50s, to former Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba, whose family escaped persecution in Zaire (today’s Democratic Republic of Congo) in the 90s, footballers with a refugee background have been making their mark on the most popular game in the world for decades.
For many refugee players, football helped them adjust to a new country and culture, as they and their families rebuilt their lives in safety.
Supported by a range of Premier League clubs, the EFL, the FA Women’s Super League, and a number of non-league and grassroots teams, Football Welcomes also highlights the role clubs can play in welcoming refugees and asylum seekers and promoting integration.
At Pompey, the club have worked with the Red Cross for the past two seasons to give young refugees the opportunity to sample the unique Fratton Park atmosphere first hand, while Pompey in the Community have also worked with them and the local authority to provide support for the refugee communities in the city.
Naomi Westland, Football Welcomes manager at Amnesty International UK, said: “We are delighted Pompey are taking part in Football Welcomes this year. With so many clubs across the country participating, the message from football is clear – refugees are welcome in the UK.
“At a time when hate-filled rhetoric so often fills our newspapers and social media timelines, this shows that there is another story to be told.
"With so many clubs across the country participating, the message from football is clear – refugees are welcome in the UK."
“Football can give people a sense of purpose and belonging, and football clubs are at the heart of our towns and cities. They have an important role to play in welcoming refugees and helping to promote respect, understanding and integration.”
The club are also backing the city’s Aspex Gallery bid to win £50,000 of National Lottery funding through a popular vote for its ‘Welcome’ project aimed at supporting refugee and asylum seekers through art.
Colin Farmery, Pompey’s head of inclusion, said: “Supporting refugees is important. You are dealing with people who have often endured the most terrible experiences before being able to escape to safety and at our club we are delighted to be able to do our bit for the Amnesty campaign.
“It’s also brilliant we can support the Aspex Gallery’s bid and we would encourage our fans to go to the website and vote for this important city project in the ITV Meridian West region.”
Joanne Bushnell, director of Aspex added: “It's fantastic to have Portsmouth Football Club supporting this project and members of the refugee and asylum community.
“We believe that art can change lives and that everyone has the right to access it. We now need public support to extend this work to more members of our community. A single vote can change lives.”
To vote for ‘Welcome’ as part of The People’s Projects, please visit thepeoplesprojects.org.uk, select ITV Meridian West and select ‘Welcome’. Voting closes on April 30.
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. Click here to find out more.