Christian Benteke was born in Zaire (now known as the Democratic of Republic of Congo) but aged just two, he was relocated by his parents to Liege, Belgium, due to political unrest in the African nation.
He is one of a small group of refugees who have played professional football in the UK, and has spoken about his childhood in support of Amnesty International’s initiative “Football Welcomes” which celebrates the contributions that have been made by players like Benteke.
“From my own personal point of view I would have to say that I hope refugees are treated like anyone else and like normal human beings, whatever their story. For me, I know how hard it is”, Benteke revealed to the BBC.
“I feel proud and it shows nothing is impossible. When you have a dream in your head you have to do everything to make it possible and even though it is going to be harder you can still do it.”
It has been 80 years since the very first refugees played professional football in the UK. In 1937, after hundreds of civilians were killed in the bombing of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War, thousands fled the bombs raining down on the Basque Country.
Among them were nearly 4,000 children who arrived in Southampton from Bilbao on a recommissioned cruise ship a few weeks later. No-one knew it then, but six of the boys on the boat would become professional footballers in England – the first refugees to play in the English Football League.