Leighton Park School have donated the use of their pitch to Sanctuary Strikers, Berkshire’s only refugee football team.

Founded back in 2017, Sanctuary Strikers is a Sunday league football side with more than just football at its heart.

Arranged with the help of the Reading Refugee Support Group and City of Sanctuary, the club aims to “promote integration by bringing together refugees and non-refugees to play football in the spirit of unity.”

The side play in Division Three of the Reading and District Sunday League, however it started with much smaller ambitions than that.

Chairman of Sanctuary Strikers, Tomson Chauke, said it just started with a kick-around at the park:

“Me and a friend had two 12-year-old boys and we wanted them to integrate, having just come out of Africa, so we told our friends to bring their family and other friends so they could hang out in the park, make friends and find their feet.

“I work with the Reading Refugee Support Group as a volunteer and I saw that the FA were donating £1,000 to grow the sport, and so I went to the lads one Friday night and said we can tap into this growth and start a football club.

“The boys jumped at the chance, so we sat down and set up the football club and the £1,000 from the FA kick started everything.

“Our first season was fun, but we were losing everything, sometimes 10-0 or 12-0, but it was fine because we had something to laugh about.

“We soon got our feet and encouraged people from the local community to join in and here we are, the team is still growing now.”


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Without the help of some major Reading organisations, the latest being Leighton Park School, the side would be a much smaller outfit.

An £8,000 donation from Reading University community fund alongisde the John Skyes Foundation, and kit from the Reading FC Community Trust and KitAid, has seen the club go from strength to strength.

Ultimately the football is the least important outcome for Mr Chauke though, who insists football is merely a means for social change.

He implored: “We wanted to use football to not just play football, but to connect communities.

“Reading is very diverse, but we all live in our small pockets, but something has to be done as people are not working together.

“We have done this with Sanctuary Strikers, we have people from different countries and cultures.

“Our next challenge is to bring as many refugees as possible on board because this is a good platform to integrate.”


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Click here for more information on Sanctuary Strikers and Reading Refugee Support Group.