Thursday 19 April 2018

Young migrants cheered by 75,000 fans at Bundesliga game

Bayern Munich players stand with refugee children on the pitch before the German Bundesliga match in the Allianz Arena in Munich (AP)
Bayern Munich players stand with refugee children on the pitch before the German Bundesliga match in the Allianz Arena in Munich (AP)

Young migrants accompanied Bayern Munich players onto the pitch and took centre stage to the applause of 75,000 fans before a Bundesliga game on Saturday.

The players each held hands with a German child on one side and a migrant child on the other for what the club described as "a symbol for the integration of refugees".

Some of the children waved shyly to the crowd, while others simply soaked it all in, the culmination of trips fraught with danger. The children, whose nationalities were not disclosed, were applauded by fans of Bayern and opponent Augsburg alike.

Bayern, like many German clubs, have offered support to people fleeing war and poverty. The club, among the biggest and richest in Europe, is donating one million euros to migrant projects, and arranging a training camp to give youths German lessons, meals, and soccer equipment.

Schalke were bringing 16 children from families seeking asylum in Gelsenkirchen to a training session on Sunday, when they would meet former Germany forward Gerald Asamoah. They were then to attend the side's league game against Mainz.

Mainz had already invited migrants to its home games, as had a host of other first, second and third division sides.

Hertha Berlin asked 1,200 migrants to its 2-1 win over Stuttgart on Saturday, a day after distributing footballs, T-shirts, and scarves to people from Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

"Our team is multicultural, colourful and integrated. It was obvious that Hertha would help," general manager Michael Preetz said.

On Wednesday, German football federation (DFB) president Wolfgang Niersbach visited eighth-tier side SG Egelsbach, which helped set up a team for migrants called "Refugees United."

"What's happening here is a fine example," Mr Niersbach said.

The following day the DFB announced it was extending its migrant-aid initiative by a further three years to 2019, offering payments of 500 euros to clubs who assist them.

While German clubs are taking the initiative, it's also because they are being driven to do so by their fans.

The "Refugees Welcome" flag has become a common sight at football grounds, and banners proclaiming support for migrants are often seen at Bundesliga and lower division games.

Press Association

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