Alan Smith and Elliott Hewitt joined Notts County FITC this week to celebrate the contribution refugees have made to football since the Second World War.Football Welcomes, a weekend of action for football clubs coordinated by Amnesty International, marks the 80th anniversary of the arrival in the UK of some of the first refugees to play professional football here.
They were child refugees from the Spanish Civil War, evacuated to the UK after the bombing of Guernica on 26 April 1937.
Smith and Hewitt took the time to speak to participants and helped lead the pre-match warm-ups at the project, held at John Carroll leisure centre in Radford, before presenting them with tickets to the final home game of the season at Meadow Lane.
Alan Smith said: “The participants here today clearly have a togetherness that they have found through attending this initiative and hopefully myself and Elliott have given them some encouragement and some insight to what life is like as a professional footballer, and something to go away and think about by sharing our experiences.
“I think it’s important as a representative of a club that is such a massive part of this city to attend the initiatives FITC run, and to help create a culture where people, regardless of background, have somewhere to come together and enjoy playing football.”
Tim Hatton, Senior Manager at FITC, said: “We’ve worked with more than 100 refugees and asylum seekers from many different countries over the past 15 months. Our aim is to help them feel at home in Nottingham and welcome by their local football club.
"As it is a universal language, we use football as the magnet to have a wider impact, such as improving refugees’ physical and mental health, as well as ensuring they feel less isolated.
"Our aim is to bring refugees together over a game of football, helping them to make new friends and stay fit.
"We want to ensure they can make the most of their new lives in Nottingham and have fun at a difficult time in their lives.”