Monday, January 10, 2011
Hundreds of football fans have backed a campaign to try to stop a popular FC United coach from being deported.
Asylum seeker Mehdi Mirzae, a volunteer community coach at the club, faces being sent back to his native Afghanistan after an appeal to keep him here failed.
But his supporters fear he will be murdered if he is forced to return home.
He fled Afghanistan in 2003 after his family were killed due to his father’s involvement in an anti-government group.
Mehdi, 26, was captured but his uncle helped him escape to Britain and he settled in Harpurhey. But he has spent the past two months in a detention centre near Gatwick after the authorities told him he was in the country illegally.
Now, friends and FC United fans have joined forces to raise awareness of his plight.
They showed their support before the club’s match against Bradford Park Avenue, with campaigners staging a five-a-side football game outside Gigg Lane, Bury.
Jenny Loudon, co-ordinator of the Mehdi Must Stay campaign, said they were heartened by the support, and told how Mehdi is the driving force behind Manchester-based refugee team Omid FC.
She said: "Mehdi has become such an important figure in the Manchester community.
"He has been instrumental in supporting vulnerable and isolated young people to get involved in football and the Home Office is underestimating the impact he has had on his local community in Manchester.
"Given what has happened to him and his family in Afghanistan we think it would be very unsafe to send him back there.
"Mehdi also has a number of health problems for which he would not get treatment if he were returned to Afghanistan so we’re determined to do everything we can to make the authorities re-think their decision."
Campaigners fighting against the plans need to raise up to £8,000 to continue his fight after he had a judicial review turned down.
Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley and Broughton, has also written to Home Secretary Theresa May in support of Mehdi.
A spokesman for FC United urged supporters to write to the Home Secretary on Mehdi’s behalf and asked them to donate to his fighting fund.
The spokesman said: "Through hard work, dedication and a commitment to our communities, FC United is in the privileged position of being able to make a difference. Mehdi Mirzae shares those values and has shown as much in his work with us.
"We would like to return the favour."