Crewe Alexandra marked the EFL Week of Action by hosting asylum seekers for a special training session led by club legend Kenny Lunt and Under-21 Manager Mike Jackson.
The group of around 25 men, who are based in the town, were guests at Crewe Alexandra in the Community’s (CAitC) Shavington base.
There, they were put through their paces in a session taken by Lunt, the Alex’s Player Development Manager, and Mike Jackson, the U21 Manager.
First-team captain Luke Offord and star striker Dan Agyei also dropped in to lend their support at the state-of-the-art facility.
Club Chaplain Phil Howell, who has supported the asylum seekers for more than five years through his role as Pastor at Hope Church Crewe, helped arrange the event.
He said: “Everybody absolutely loved it; we had a blast. The players were so excited to come, and they’d have stayed all day if we’d let them!
“Crewe Alexandra already do a lot of work in the community, and they have been excellent regarding this too.
“I’ve already been able to take some of the guys to watch home games this season, and the club have given us some kit to use as well.
“It was really good of Kenny and Mike, and Luke and Dan, to come along and lend their support – it made the occasion even more special. I’m sure we will do something similar again.”
Phil, who helps run twice-weekly drop-in sessions at Hope Church Crewe for the men, women and children who are seeking asylum in the UK, added: “We see between 150-200 people come through our doors every week.
“We provide general support, offer food which has been donated by supermarkets, help them with medical issues, paperwork, language – just anything we can do to support them.
“It’s difficult for them – most probably arrived on boats, fleeing war or persecution in places like Eritrea, Yemen, Sudan, Iran and Syria. Some have been trafficked here by criminal gangs.
“Many have left families, homes and businesses behind. They are housed in Crewe while they wait for their legal cases for asylum to be looked at by the Home Office. But they don’t really have any support, they are just left there.
“We also try to support them with their health and wellbeing. We’ve helped them get access to bicycles, and playing football is another part of it. They love it, and it is great for them to keep active. They are a great bunch of guys.”
The annual EFL Week of Action sees clubs showcase their community activities, and celebrate the impact they can make.
Using the power of football, EFL clubs and Club Community Organisations (CCOs) collectively invest more than £60m in their communities every year, engaging with some of the most vulnerable members of society.
Stephen Raynor, The PFA’s Community Liaison Officer, was on hand to see the Alex professionals take their guests through a session which started with a warm-up, progressed to skills and techniques drills, and finished with a series of games.
Melvin Bates, operations manager at CAitC, said: “It was a fantastic turnout and it was a pleasure to welcome Phil and the lads to our facility.
“It was great to have Kenny and the other guys from the first-team set-up drop in and inspire everyone involved in the training session, and everybody enjoyed the afternoon.
“We are looking at ways we can work with Phil to offer the men more football at CAitC in the future.”