Real Madrid offers $1.1 million to aid refugees in Spain


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Real Madrid to donate $1.1 million dollars to help refugees in Spain

Spanish club follows Bayern Munich in donating money to help refugees arriving in Europe

CNN —  

Spanish giant Real Madrid has become the latest football club to come to the aid of refugees arriving in Europe after announcing it will donate €1 million ($1.1 million) to help displaced people taken in by Spain.

“Faithful to its commitment to charity, the club has taken this decision with the aim of supporting men, women and children who have been forced to leave their homes in order to flee from war and death,” read a statement published on the Real Madrid’s website Saturday.

The president of the 10-time European Cup winners, Florentino Perez, confirmed the move after discussing the issue with Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy by phone Friday, the club said.

“(Real Madrid) is considering various initiatives and schemes with a special focus placed on the youngest refugees,” the statement continued.

“It will also make some of the club’s infrastructure and sports goods available to the (Spanish government’s) inter-ministerial commission that organizes the system for receiving refugees.”

Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, currently on international duty with Portugal, also took to Twitter Friday to weigh in on the issue which has dominated news reports and front pages across the continent in the past week.

“No one at the national team is indifferent to Europe’s refugee crisis. All our thoughts are with those people,” he wrote.

Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the likes of war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as troubled countries in North Africa have poured into Europe this year.

Football responds to refugee crisis

A United Nations spokesperson told CNN earlier this week that more than 300,000 people had attempted the dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossing into Europe since January. According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 2,600 people have died making this journey in 2015 alone.

Many more have arrived in Europe via alternative routes. In late August, the bodies of 71 refugees were discovered in an abandoned truck near Austria’s border with Germany.

The brutal severity of the issue was further hammered home this week when the body of three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi, who had fled Syria with his parents and brother, was pictured washed up on a beach in Turkey after the smuggler’s boat the family was traveling in capsized.

Chaotic scenes of thousands of refugees stranded at a train station in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, meanwhile, emphasized the sheer scale of the problem and continuing disagreement amongst European politicians in how to address it.

Migrants board trains in Keleti station in Budapest after it was reopened on September 3, 2015.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Migrants board trains in Keleti station in Budapest after it was reopened on September 3, 2015.

Spanish PM Rajoy stated this week that Spain would take its “fair share” of refugees although his political opponents at home have demanded he do more.

The Iberian nation has so far committed to receiving just under 3,000 displaced people this year. Yet that number pales compared to Germany which has stated it expects to provide shelter for 800,000 refugees from Syria alone during the same period.

Echoing their government, German football clubs and fans have been among the most vociferous and generous in campaigning on the refugee issue in recent weeks.

A number of fan groups have displayed banners reading “Refugees Welcome” at matches while clubs such as Hamburg have offered to house refugee camps in stadium car parks and arranged matches to raise funds for new arrivals in the country.

Reigning German league champion Bayern Munich announced its own $1.1 million donation to the refugee cause last week. It also released details of training camps which will offer meals and language classes to refugee children.

In the north of the country, Bayern’s likely title rival Borussia Dortmund offered free match tickets to 200 refugees for its Europa League tie with Odds Ballklubb last week. Dortmund also issued a statement declaring that Germany needs migrants and that the country’s social security system will fall apart without them.

“For the good of humanity”

Elsewhere in Germany, Bundesliga clubs Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen have invited refugees to lead out their players on match days as club mascots while the German national team has released a video calling for solidarity and warning against xenophobia.

According to Ceylan Hussein, a former press officer at German second tier club, St. Pauli, the reaction of fans has been important in publicizing the plight of refugees and encouraging action.

“The consensus is that, given its vast audience, football is a magnificent stage for an appeal such as this,” Hussein said.

“Club and fans are known to be continuously calling for more people to accept social responsibility. This isn’t for the good of the game, it’s for the good of humanity,” she added.

These powerful fan sentiments have spread rapidly across the continent in the past few weeks.

In England, talk of supporter groups showing their solidarity with refugees has been growing. Many have taken to social media to advocate the display of positive banners and statements to coincide with the next round of national league fixtures.

Scottish champions Celtic – a club initially founded to help immigrants fleeing the devastation of the Irish potato famine in the late nineteenth century and whose Green Brigade ultras group was among the first to display banners reading “Refugees Welcome” back in 2007 – has also vowed to donate the proceeds of a friendly match this weekend to refugee charities.

In Italy, meanwhile, football teams such as Koa Bosco and San Michel have been founded to help integrate refugees and migrants into communities in the south of the country.

Given the strength of feeling among fan groups on the issue, and with refugees continuing to pour into the continent in search of safety and shelter, these are unlikely to be the last gestures of kindness in the weeks and months ahead.

Read: Migrant football team ‘responsible for a miracle’

Read: Bayern Munich donates $1.1 million to help refugees