How Soccer's Biggest Teams Are Helping Solve Europe's Refugee Crisis


Facing its worst refugee crisis since World War II, Europe is searching for answers.

Several hundred thousand displaced persons -- most of whom hail from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan -- have been forced from their homes as a result of war.

They are fleeing to Europe, where, after a treacherous journey, they're being met with both support and hostility.

Some, like 3-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, fail to make it at all.

And while the continent's leaders work to try and solve the issues at hand, an unexpected group is stepping up to deliver an immediate impact.

In Germany, the government stated it will provide shelter for 800,000 Syrians who fled their homes, and the country's soccer clubs immediately followed suit.

German champions Bayern Munich pledged a donation of about $1.1 million to help aid refugees and will host "training camps" for youths who traveled such great distances.

But, that's just the tip of the iceberg. The club will also provide kids with German language classes, soccer gear and meals.

Bayern's chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, said,

At the start of Bayern's match on September 12, players will be escorted to the field by both German and refugee children, providing one of the greatest aids money can't buy: exposure.

The Bavarians have millions of followers worldwide, and this act will thrust the growing refugee crisis directly into the spotlight.

Bayern's Javi Martínez has taken up the call to action as well; the Spaniard recently visited a Munich train station to sign autographs and show his support for those currently without homes.

Other German teams have taken note of what Bayern is doing and are quickly stepping up to do everything in their power to support the refugees.

Borussia Dortmund recently gave out free match tickets so refugees could experience a bit of enjoyment during such a harrowing and uncertain period.

Other teams are planning to turn stadium parking lots into refugee camps and organize fundraising matches.

The growing refugee support movement received an additional boost after Germany's national team released a video condemning racism and preaching understanding during this tumultuous period.

The global game's aid and assistance for those caught in the crosshairs of death and destruction extend far beyond Germany, though.

Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid also pledged a $1.1 million donation to the refugee cause while Scotland's Celtic FC donated all the funds from a recent friendly match to support those who have been forced to leave their homelands.

The Celtic FC Foundation's chief executive, Tony Hamilton, said,

In addition to some of its biggest clubs, a few of soccer's most popular individuals are also speaking out in support of those who have gone unheard for so long.

Cristiano Ronaldo tweeted he and his home nation of Portugal are well aware of what's happening in Europe and are standing with the refugees.

In England, a group of soccer supporters created the #RefugeesWelcome movement.

The group is also urging as many soccer fans as possible to create pro-refugee banners to put on display at matches all over the country this Saturday, September 12.

The latest example of the beautiful game's pro-refugee stance is the ultimate showing of European soccer solidarity.

Yesterday, it was confirmed all Champions League and Europa League teams will coordinate to donate portions of ticket proceeds to the refugee relief effort.

Right now, uncertainty appears to be the key theme in Europe -- not just for refugees seeking asylum, but for European officials who will play key roles in how this crisis unfolds in the coming weeks and months.

That's why European soccer's united, unwavering support of refugees is incredibly uplifting and also extremely necessary.

Ceylan Hussein, a former press officer for Germany's St. Pauli FC, summed it up best, saying,

Soccer will always be a religion in Europe, but this past month or so proves some things are more important than what happens in 90 minutes on the field.

Citations: Real Madrid offers $1.1 million to aid refugees in Spain (CNN), Bayern Munich and other soccer teams pitch in to help Europe's wave of refugees (Washington Post), English football supporters' groups to show 'Refugees Welcome' banners (The Guardian)