More than 140 clubs, schools and community groups are marking Football Against Racism in Europe week Ireland 2010.
Continued exposure of the diversity within football – including participation by females and people from diverse ethnic, cultural and national backgrounds in the game – would help breakdown gender stereotyping and racism.
The Association in conjunction with its Intercultural Football Advisory Group launched its programme of activities on 13 October to mark Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) Action Week 2010.
It’s heartening for the FAI to have secured a strong response to FARE Week in Ireland: and this is testimony to the many decent people involved with football who promote on a weekly basis the values inherent in football; equity, fair play and respect.
In the Republic of Ireland there are over 140 clubs, schools and community groups who are taking part in activities, and certainly hope the Irish public will show their support by attending FARE Week events, and ultimately rejecting actions and behaviour that promote racism and discrimination.
Speaking at the launch of FARE Week, former Ireland international Curtis Fleming said:
Football is a universal institution that is familiar to almost every person on the globe. This makes it one of the most effective vehicles for fighting inequalities and racism.
While much of media and public focus tends to be on the big clubs and national teams, there is a raft of activities – centring on football – within local communities which involve people from different ethnic backgrounds, gender and ability. The more the football-loving population engages in activity at this level, the greater our success will be in promoting a positive understanding of diversity in our society.
The media, sports commentators and leaders in sporting organisations all have a responsibility to highlight these activities for the common good. Profiling intercultural play-offs or giving attention to women’s football in the media are small ways in which the power of football can be advanced to promote tolerance.
Curtis Fleming, whose father is Jamaican and mother is from Dublin, said that he was always aware of being ‘different’ to his peers when growing up in Ballybough:
I certainly experienced what it was liked to be singled out because of the colour of my skin. But I found football to be a critical outlet where I could be respected for being part of a team and it helped me develop life-long friendships. he added.
While I am not blinkered to the fact that racism and discrimination in football abounds, positive leadership and role models work to make football a uniting force. Footballers playing with the top clubs are hero-worshipped by young kids, so they can be hugely influential in challenging negative behaviour and promoting respect for cultural diversity. But it’s equally important that when children go to matches – even if it’s only a kick-around in their local park – that they don’t hear adults around them using racist language or taunting opposition players because of cultural differences. The same applies to gender inequality. Respect for diversity needs to be encouraged at all levels of the game,