Football giant FC Bayern Munich today pledged to help refugees in Germany. In a statement it announced plans to donate 1 million euros from a friendly match to support refugee projects and to establish a "training camp" for refugee youth in which participants will train at FC Bayern, take German language classes and be provided with meals and football jerseys.
The statement read in part:
"Germany is currently experiencing its greatest influx of refugees for many decades. This presents a special challenge to the state and society. FC Bayern München will play an active part in meeting the challenge and, working closely with the city of Munich and state of Bavaria, contribute financial, material and practical help."
In the midst of a migration crisis, European countries are straining to integrate refugees into their societies, and none more so than Germany. The German government has welcomed more middle eastern and north African refugees in recent years than any other country, and as we reported earlier this week, there has been political push-back and an increase in xenophobic attitudes.
But Bundesliga, Germany's professional soccer league, is helping to roll out the welcome mats.
Last week, fans hung banners from the stands in stadiums across the country that read "Welcome Refugees." Borussia Dortmund, the club currently atop the league's standings, even invited 220 refugees to a match, according to The Telegraph.
While professional sports teams around the world often engage in charity work, they usually opt for non-controversial initiatives that can win the support of all fans. FC Bayern Munich's move is a rare example of a global franchise wading into a politically and emotionally charged discussion.
These symbolic and practical moves come at a time when people desperate for stability and safety continue to take risky, often deadly routes to reach European countries, undeterred by recent migrant deaths.
Meanwhile, Germany is struggling to come to terms with just how many more refugees it can accept, and Chancellor Angela Merkel is working to implement a refugee sharing system that would lighten the burden for Germany.