The slow-brewing refugee crisis in Europe- with hundreds of thousands fleeing Syria, South Sudan, and other countries being ripped apart by war or oppressive governments- came to a head in recent weeks. The continuous influx of families into Europe has dominated the news cycle due to a combination of sheer numbers, high-profile deaths (notably the three year old Syrian boy who washed up on a beach in Turkey), Europe’s haphazard response in assisting the new arrivals, and the at-times extreme and dehumanizing portrayal of the refugees by politicians and the media. This is a complex problem that resists one-size-fits-all solutions and is compounded by a collective failure to imagine vulnerable and oppressed groups as human beings. Yet just as the crisis is reaching a fever pitch, refugees are receiving vocal support and tangible aid from an unlikely source— football.
Last week, German football fans across the country raised banners and took to social media in support of refugees. Some sets of fans even went so far as to donate tickets to refugees, while a nonleague German club, Red Star Leipzig, announced that refugees would be offered free admission to their home games.
is going one step further. This week, the reigning Bundesliga champions announced they would be donating over €1m to aid refugees. Their youth academy will also hold a training camp for refugee children, which, in addition to football training, will provide housing, food, and German language classes.
Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said that helping the refugees is simply the right thing to do. “FC Bayern see it as its social responsibility to help those fleeing and suffering children, women and men, to support them and accompany them in Germany.”
Refugee children will also walk out of the tunnel with the Bayern first team on September 12th when they host FC Augsburg.
In England, supporters have launched a campaign to get fans to unfurl banners in support of refugees on September 12th. Aston Villa supporters are the first fans of a Premier League club to publicly declare their participation in the campaign, but a number of supporters groups across the English football landscape are joining in. Some of the league clubs whose fans will be participating in the day of solidarity include Swindon Town, Charlton Athletic, and AFC Wimbledon, as well as fans of nonleague clubs such as FC United of Manchester, Clapton FC, and Dulwich Hamlet. The campaign is being organized to both offer a public show of support to the refugees, but also to pressure the British Government- and Prime Minister David Cameron in particular- to do more to help.
If you’d like to help, there are a number of ways to do so. Organizations such as UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, Save The Children are doing good work to assist incoming refugees with necessities such as food, emergency housing, and medical care and are always accepting donations. There is currently a campaign organized by author Patrick Ness to raise money for Save The Children’s refugee assistance efforts that’s being bolstered by matching funds from prominent YA authors. so donations to that campaign will be multiplied. If you’re a fan of a European club, or even an MLS team, you can also try to get fellow supporters on board with the #RefugeesWelcome campaign. This isn’t a problem that will be solved overnight, but there’s a lot you can do right now to relieve the suffering and hardship of thousands of people, and a little goes a long way.
UPDATE: Scottish champions Celtic have announced that their share of the proceeds from their “Legends” charity match against Dunfermline on Sunday will be donated to refugee assistance efforts.
UPDATE 2: Real Madrid will also be donating €1 million to aid refugees that are settling in Spain.