Wolves are proud to be one of many EFL clubs supporting Amnesty International’s Football Welcomes initiative this weekend, celebrating the contribution that refugees have made to the world of football.
Football Welcomes marks the 80th anniversary of the arrival in the UK of some of the first refugees to play professional football, whilst also aiming to highlight the important role football clubs can play in promoting community cohesion.
Wolves Community Trust’s work in many local schools has seen staff already work closely with many refugees.
Wolves as a football club benefitted from the early influx of refugees, and it is believed that it was Emilio Aldecoa Gomez, who had fled the Basque region of Spain during the country’s Civil War, who was Molineux’s first overseas player.
Club archivist and Museum Curator Pat Quirke outlined in a programme article earlier this season how Aldecoa was spotted by manager Major Frank Buckley playing for a works team, and ended up spending two wartime years at Wolves from 1943-45.
Eleven goals from 30 appearances made the skillful left winger Wolves’ top scorer in one of those seasons.
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.
“Eighty years on from the bombing of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War, horrific violence is again forcing many people to flee their homes, leaving everything behind as they look for safety elsewhere.
“We’re very pleased to be working with football clubs to help make refugees who have come to the UK feel welcome.
“This is the first year of Football Welcomes and we’d love it to become a key fixture in the football calendar for years to come.”
Football Welcomes is part of Amnesty International’s 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.
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.”