Portuguese professional football teams-up to ‘welcome refugees’

The eleventh edition of the Portuguese players' union campaign against racism and violence in sport, an initiative looking to promote sports' best values, will be dedicated in 2015 to fostering the inclusion of refugees through the practice of sport and promotion of volunteering.

The campaign, which is constituted of a series of awareness raising activities at grassroots and professional football level, counts on the support of the former Galatasaray and Everton player Abel Xavier and the Benfica player Matilde Fidalgo, who have joined as ambassors.

Backed by former Portuguese international players, including João Vieira Pinto and Carla Couto, among others, the 'Football Welcomes Refugees' campaign was launched on 24 October in a ceremony at the Estádio Universitário, in Lisbon. On the day the player's union, Portuguese Olympic Committte, Portuguese FA, Liga Portuguesa, managers' and referees' associations, and refugee aid bodies signed a memorandum of understanding focused on helping address the refugee crisis.

At the event, the President of the Portuguese player's union Joaquim Evangelista said: "Football is a tool for inclusion and integration. It is our duty, as citizens and as national entities, to make sport available for all. In these situations, sport acquires social dimension, a solidarity one too."

The event was followed by a solidarity match that brought together former international Portuguese stars, such as former PSG striker Pauleta and ex-FC Porto players Costinha and Jorge Andrade.

Throughout the week other activities will include: talks at schools of Lisbon and Setúbal to address the issue among the youth; matches of the first and second Portuguese leagues will be dedicated to the cause and in which the teams' captains will read related messages and banners will promote the campaign (Estoril vs. Rio Ave, Vitória de Guimarães vs. Académica, FC Porto B vs. Oliveirense, Benfica vs. Sporting and Belenenses vs. União da Madeira); the display of a banner at the Portuguese women's national team match against Ireland on 27 October; and, a pioneering workshop on the subject on 28 October.

In addition, sporting material will be donated to the Portuguese Council of Refugees to further the initiative's reach and impact.

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