Stars of the Bundesliga back refugees

2015-09-16 18:08
Pep Guardiola (AFP)

Berlin - Bayern Munich's Pep Guardiola says Germany is setting an example of how other European countries should treat refugees as the Bundesliga's stars help welcome migrants amid the ongoing crisis.

"Germany has shown us, and the world through German Chancellor Angela Merkel, what Germany is all about," Guardiola said ahead of Bayern's Champions League away match at Olympiakos on Wednesday.

"This is not an easy situation and there is no easy answer, but Germany has taken the first step with Merkel," he said, after her government accepted record waves of people fleeing war and poverty.

"I hope other countries will follow this example," said Guardiola.

"I am very proud of the German people and very proud to be allowed to live in Germany."

Around 450,000 refugees have arrived in Germany so far this year with up to one million expected in 2015, according to Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.

Guardiola, a proud Catalan, is impressed with the German hospitality, and the country's top clubs will show their support in this weekend's matches.

All 36 teams in Germany's top two leagues will wear "We're helping! #refugees welcome" logos on their shirts to encourage fans to help.

Bayern has pledged €1 million and are setting up special coaching courses with the City of Munich to provide meals, German lessons and equipment for refugee children.

Bayern's Spanish international Javi Martinez got personally involved in welcoming the refugees flooding into Munich and worked alongside local police to help new arrivals at the city's main station.

Munich's director of sport Matthias Sammer, an ex-German international, urged his countrymen to offer a warm welcome to new immigrants.

"When you see these people on TV or in photos, how they have nothing as they flee war and atrocities, how they leave everything behind in the hope of a better life, then we have to offer every refugee in Germany our hand," he told German daily Bild.

German clubs have already set up initiatives, from offering training and language-learning opportunities to free tickets and projects to promote integration.

Schalke 04 have launched 'mates crates' (Kumpelkiste) to allow their fans across the country to fill boxes with donated items which will be collected at the stadium before each of their away league matches.

Several clubs, including Wolfsburg, St Pauli, Mainz and Dortmund have invited refugees to games with free tickets.

Borussia Dortmund's Serbian-born defender Neven Subotic, who has set up a foundation to help the underprivileged in Africa, led calls for fellow Bundesliga professionals to do their bit to help refugees.

"I can't imagine how hard that must be, to give up your life and most of the time leave your family behind like that," said Subotic. "And then try and get into Germany, which involves a lot of risk.

"For me it's unimaginable, but completely understandable to want the best for your family.

"It's a first step, but an important one and we have to keep at it to ensure these people have a fair chance of a good life here."

Bayer Leverkusen's ex-Germany defender Roberto Hilbert has family experience of how hard it can be for an immigrant in Germany.

As Leverkusen's 'refugee patron', he is using his profile to ask Germans to help and stop xenophobic attacks on those seeking asylum, with dozens of centres for refugees fire-bombed over the last few months.

"We really must do something and ensure that violence and racism do not increase," the defender, whose wife comes from Eritrea, told broadcaster Sport1.

"We have got to make it clear to people how things are in the eyes of the foreigners," he said.

"Unfortunately, we've already experienced a lot, even my own children. We've even been insulted on planes.

"I'm just trying to give a slice of the cake to these people who need help."

Read more on:    bundesliga  |  pep guardiola  |  soccer

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