SAFET Vukalic’s family fled atrocities in Bosnia with few possessions but their lives. Their neighbours were not so lucky.

Then 16-years-old and living in Prijedor, Safet and fellow Muslims were made to wear white armbands to mark their faith – in a chilling reminder of the Nazi Holocaust 50 years earlier.

This week, footballers wrapped white bands around their arms in memory of those who died in the Bosnian genocide, as they ran onto the astroturf at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy for a Refugee Week tournament.

Called Football Welcomes and organised by the Bassett secondary school, it saw a team of refugees and asylum seekers take on players from Wiltshire Police and schools around Swindon.

For Safet, now 43 and a regular speaker in schools around the UK, the importance of the tournament was in remembrance. The youngsters on the field were talking about atrocities like those perpetrated during the Bosnian war.

“You talk about it. You remember those people who passed away,” he said.

“It’s also for the students, reminding others who don’t know. It’s about raising awareness of what happens with inaction.

“Saying you’re going to remain neutral and not take sides is one thing. I don’t want states to take sides. When a war starts I want you to stop that war.”

Some of the players had first-hand experience of escaping difficult situations across the world.

Moses Morris, 35, captain of the Harbour Project’s Swindon United team, fled Uganda to seek asylum in the UK last year. He said: “Football is a uniting factor. It’s something that unites everybody. When you play, there are a lot of memories that you forget about. The sport has no borders.”

Nan Bains, manager at the Harbour Project, a Swindon charity that supports asylum seekers and refugees, said: “Sport is really important. A lot of people suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. It’s a way to release a lot of that anxiety and stress.

“Football is a universal, international game. It’s nice for the team to take part in a tournament playing other teams. They want to integrate, settle in Swindon and not be identified constantly as asylum seekers and refugees.”

RWB Academy student Rebecca Warner, 13, said: “Everybody has different experiences and outlooks on the world. With this, you get to learn something about different cultures.”

Organised by Bassett teaching assistant Theresa Bickell, the tournament saw seven teams compete for two trophies. A team from Lime Kiln Leisure Centre won the tournament, but the Harbour Project's Swindon United took the fair play award.

Thanking players for taking part, Nicola Wetherall, who leads RWB Academy’s Holocaust education programme, said: “Sport helps build community cohesion. Playing sport and football together can help us build a bridge as we journey towards confronting hate and providing welcome.

“That still today so many are forced to flee, are persecuted, humiliated and made to feel they cannot be themselves is why we stand together.

“We come together today to remember those persecuted and murdered in Bosnia. In July 1995, 8,372 Muslim men and boys were murdered in a genocide in Srebrenica, killed simply because of their identity. Today some are we wearing a white arm band, as we acknowledge the ethnic cleansing, persecution and atrocities that took place in Prijedor and beyond. Collectively, through sport, we can send a message of solidarity and hope and we are delighted survivor Safet Vukalic is here with us, lending his support to our endeavour.

Sport is a powerful tool for uniting communities – it champions the team, values respect, empathy and inclusion and so it is fitting we come together through sport to have fun, but also to pause, remember and learn.”