Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Sunday December 16 2007
Football fans are a tribal bunch - we love our teams and love to hate others - but fans are also a part of a far wider footballing community and at certain times come together. This is such a time I think.
A young professional footballer, Alhassan 'Ally' Bangura, who has made 50 appearances for Watford, is facing deportation having been turned down for asylum and ordered to return to Sierra Leone four years after leaving.
The situation has been championed by local Labour MP Claire Ward, who addressed Watford fans on Saturday before their game against Plymouth. She says that the 19-year-old's life could be in danger if he was forced to return to his home country.
She has also called on the Immigration Minister to use his discretionary powers to stop Bangura's deportation.
Watford Football Club have said on their official site:
'We would urge all supporters of Watford Football Club and Al Bangura to continue to maintain the pressure built up in the last four to five days. It is imperative that we continue to have our voice heard and ensure that Al remains an integral part of the Watford family.'
David Blunkett and Sir Elton John have both written letters to Gerry Sutcliffe, Minister in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the Professional Footballer's Association have also made representation to the minister.
Blunkett said: "Like Claire Ward MP, I am at a loss to understand why, given the circumstances of Al Bangura's presence in the country and the fact that in other circumstances and forms of employment (including under any new points system for immigration) he would have been able to apply from Sierra Leone as 'highly-skilled', and of course fulfils existing rules in relation to income and contribution. However, the simple fact remains that Al Bangura came here as minor, has put his time here to good use and is a valued member of the community. On these grounds I offer my support even in circumstances where Watford are playing my home team of Sheffield Wednesday on December 22nd - and if the decision were reversed I might live to regret it!'
Bangoura explained: 'I came here when I was 15, with no friends or family. Everything I have now is what I've made for myself and I don't mean just my home, but my relationships.' Adding 'I would love to be a citizen here, if I was given the chance to be British I would take it with both hands. I know that these people are doing their jobs, but they need to look at my situation individually. I'm doing everything right. I'm here, I have my family and my job - I'm not doing anyone any harm. I'm happy to be here, I see this as my home, my country.'
'People from all over the country are supporting me, English people. People from the country I want to live in and that makes me happy to know that. I'm glad they want me to be one of them as well. I want to thank them for what they've done for me. I only hope that I am able to see them soon and show my thanks to all of them. I am just praying every night that the Home Secretary will review this and allow me to stay because inside of me, I know I'm supposed to be here.'
There is a petition set up by a Watford fan site, Click Here To Sign If we all spread the word and get as many family, friends and fellow fans to sign it and if the press pick up on the situation more and more, maybe the pressure will pile on the Government to reverse this decision. It costs you just one minute of your time to add your name and although think that such actions don't have an affect, there is nothing to lose in trying.
Date:Sunday December 16 2007
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