Brentford and Queens Park Rangers will be joining football clubs across the country this weekend to celebrate the contribution refugees have made to football, ahead of the west London derby on Saturday and as part of a new Amnesty International initiative.

Football Welcomes, a weekend of action for football clubs coordinated by Amnesty, 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.

One of the boys, Jose Gallego, went on to play for Brentford, as well as Southampton, Colchester United and Cambridge United, while others also joined Southampton, Coventry City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Norwich City.

On Saturday, Brentford will be hosting a match for refugee participants in their youth community programmes against a similar team from QPR.

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The clubs are providing free tickets to the derby afterwards, where the young people – wearing Amnesty T-shirts saying Football Welcomes Refugees - will make up the guard of honour bringing the players onto the pitch.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said: “Refugees have made an important contribution to this much-loved game and to their communities throughout the years.

“We are delighted that so many football clubs are embracing this. They have a key role to play in helping to promote respect, understanding and integration.

“Eighty years on from the bombing of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War, horrific violence is again forcing many people to flee their homes, leaving everything behind as they look for safety elsewhere.

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“We’re very pleased to be working with football clubs to help make refugees who have come to the UK feel welcome.

“This is the first year of Football Welcomes and we’d love it to become a key fixture in the football calendar for years to come.”

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