In a heartwarming display amid a Syrian refugee crisis, Bayern Munich footballers took the field holding the hands of young migrant children before the club’s Bundesliga match against Augsburg last Saturday.
With one German child and one refugee child to either side of each player, the team was met by the raucous applause of 75,000 fans at Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany.
The crowd's warm welcome was returned by the migrant children, whose nationalities weren't disclosed by the team.
Needless to say, the spectacle shocked, awed and thrilled many of the kids, some of whom have likely been displaced by the ongoing Syrian Civil War. In August, the German government estimated that 800,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, would find their way to Germany by the end of the year.
These refugees still need homes, but a sunny day out at a soccer match isn't a bad way to spend a Saturday. It's the least Bayern Munich can do to help -- the club is one of the richest sports teams in the world, according to its $1.23 billion valuation by Forbes.
Bayern Munich called the pre-match ceremony a "symbol of integration," continuing their efforts in leading European soccer's response to the continent's refugee crisis. For their part, the club has been housing, feeding and teaching German to as many refugees they can handle.
Earlier this month, the team set up a "training camp" for refugees fleeing to Germany and donated over $1 million to help fund other relief projects. Not stopping there, Bayern Munich announced last Wednesday that 80 teams in this season's UEFA cup competitions agreed to donate €1 per ticket from their home matches to support the cause.
"FC Bayern see it as its social responsibility to help those fleeing and suffering children, women and men, to support them and accompany them in Germany," team CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in a statement at the time.
German professional soccer clubs have followed Bayern's lead, with some clubs getting more creative than others in how they can help. While teams like Schalke, Mainz and Hertha Berlin have all hosted thousands of refugees at either games or practice sessions, eighth-tier team SG Egelsbach has gone ahead and set up a team for migrants called "Refugees United."
Fourth-tier side Babelsberg 03 has also started their own migrant team, dubbed "Welcome United 03":
This weekend, all 36 Bundesliga clubs will abstain from advertising on their sleeves to make room for a "Refugees Welcome" patch, according to DW.
In a time of crisis, sports taking a backseat to social responsibility at the behest of wealthy professional teams is highly commendable, and most of all, needed.
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