Leverkusen - Whether it be the clubs, the players or the fans, the Bundesliga is getting actively involved in helping refugees. Bayer 04 Leverkusen are also lending a hand with several initiatives and aid projects which make their position clear.
'We've got to make people aware of the issues'
Roberto Hilbert is Bayer 04's 'refugee patron' who is going around and spreading the message. "We really must do something and ensure that violence and racism do not increase," said the defender to Sport1 television.
The 30-year-old, who is married to a native of Eritrea and has three children, also sees it as a duty of his colleagues to send out a clear sign. "Particularly we, who people look up to, can do even more to determine public opinion and we've got to make sure they are aware of these issues," the former Germany international said. "We have got to make it clear to people how things are in the eyes of the foreigners."
Hilbert knows what he is talking about. "Unfortunately, we've already experienced a lot, even my own children," he said. "We've even been insulted on planes." In order to lead by example, he is now happy to act as Bayer 04's 'refugee patron'. "I'm trying to give a slice of the cake to these people who need help."
Bayer Leverkusen are also running numerous other initiatives to aid refugees, from the creation of welcoming alliances offering training and language-learning opportunities for those who have fled their homes, which are being planned and are in cooperation with the Bundesliga-Stiftung foundation, the German Children and Youth Foundation and the City of Leverkusen, to the donation of tickets for Bundesliga home matches for social establishments, and private initiatives including the cooperation project "Bayer 04 goes to school" with refugee establishments – Bayer really are getting heavily involved.
They are not the only club in Europe to be so active either. All 80 teams participating in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League this season are to donate one Euro from every ticket sold for their first home matches this season to refugee projects.
This came about thanks to a suggestion from FC Porto, and the European Club Association (ECA) immediately agreed. "Football has a responsibility," said ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. It is a responsibility which Roberto Hilbert and Bayer 04 Leverkusen are aware of.