Football is a brilliant way to bring communities together and make people feel welcome in a new place. Following Football for Foodbank's successful Refugee Football Event, they are now exploring ways to continue to support the Milton Keynes’ refugee community.
Football for Foodbanks were put in contact with the group of refugees through the MK Foodbank after four men turned up on the foodbank’s doorstep after they googled ‘food banks’ and walked 2 hours from the hostel they are staying at.
Louisa Hobbs, the Operations Manager at the MK Foodbank went to find out more about the group, to explore how best the community can help, she said; “Overwhelmingly the answer was that they are bored with nothing to do.”
On Saturday 2nd April, Football for Foodbanks hosted their Refugee Football Event at the Radcliffe School in Milton Keynes which was a great day for everyone involved.
The Head of the Milton Keynes Division, George Ridgeway, upon reflection of the day, said; “I still remember our first ever game and food bank donation and how much that meant.
“The fact that several months later we’re now playing alongside the people that the foodbank support shows what we’re all about; we’re not just here to donate, wash our hands and say, ‘job done’. We are here to build a community and integrate marginalised members of society into that community. The weekend’s game is the start of something truly amazing.”
The highly contested game, where 9 refugees were integrated into the two teams, ended in a thrilling penalty shootout, with the eventual runners up coming back from 5 – 2 at half-time to finish full-time at 7 – 7, but couldn’t quite hold on during the penalty shootout.
Ash, the Home Office Agent working closely with the refugees is very thankful for the work of the Football for Foodbanks charity and said; “I would like to give my appreciation for the support and generosity that you have given to my refugees.
“Their time they had with your support group was amazing and the effort that the staff running it was exceptional. I really hope we can continue this relationship and create even bigger support for more refugees. What you guys do is amazing, hats off to you and your organization.”
Football for Foodbanks are currently in the process of exploring ways to ensure this is not a one-off event and ensure that refugees can be more frequently integrated into their weekly fixtures. Removing the participation barriers are crucial for this, so finding suitable facilities, transport options and providing football kit, equipment and footwear is so important so that the players can just turn up and play.
One of the refugees in attendance said; “I would like to show my appreciation for the football match that was arranged for me and my friends by Ash and the security in my hotel.
“We had a very nice time and would like for this to be often. We have very little things to make us fun and this has made us very happy to be outside of the hotel. Ash asks us all the time if he can make things happy and nice for us in the hotel. We are very happy and hope to stay with Ash in this place. We like the Xbox and football we play.”
Football for Foodbanks welcomes anyone, of any ability or background, to come along and play football with them. You can find more information about how to get involved on their Facebook page.
Football for Foodbanks on Facebook
For more information about footballing opportunities for refugees, or exploring opportunities for other marginalised groups, please contact Berks & Berks FA Community & Inclusion Officer, Emma O’Hara, via Development@Berks-BucksFA.com.
Additionally, if you have any old kit, equipment or footwear we would be very happy to pass it on to an appreciative new home.