Football People movement propels support for Roma and ethnic minorities

As European identity becomes more diverse and the reactions to these changes are challenged by demonstrations of far-right, anti-Islamic and anti-refugee feeling what role can football and sport play in countering hatred and discrimination?

Over the past few weeks hundreds of Football People groups have been working on initiatives with migrant and ethnic minority groups with the aim of ensuring that everyone has a chance to be involved in football, regardless of background.

Welcoming migrants and refugees
In Italy, one of the countries most challenged by the refugee crisis, local and national interventions are helping to build bridges between cultures and continents.

The web portal Start Lazio.Net and the amateur groups such as Antirazzista Assata Shakur, Afro Napoli United and Bugs Bologna Sport are among a long list of organisations that have used the action weeks period to run football tournaments and matches for refugees and migrant communities.

Fare member ASD Balon Mundial organised a conference last Saturday (17 October) in Turin, on topics including the exclusion of asylum-seekers, refugees and undocumented migrants from participation in sport, and how football can serve as a means for empowerment.

The daylong event sought to encourage co-operation between refugee aid organisations and state bodies and through campaigning raise awareness of the need to tackle stereotypes.

In Germany and the Czech Republic, the fan groups VfB für Alle E.V. and Barflies United invited refugee teams to play matches, participate in tournaments and film screenings, and give voice to their contributions to the debate over their future.

In Russia, MPC Social Services and the Task Force Against Racism teamed up with the Moscow Youth League for a multi-ethnic tournament in Moscow, bringing together communities and using football to build dialogue.

Similarly, the Turkish group KAOS GL planned two football tournaments for LGBTI refugees in Denizli and İzmir, where more than 70.000 registered refugees currently live. Halil İbrahim Dinçdağ, the only openly gay Turkish referee, officiates both matches on 19 and 20 October.

Fan choreographies in Germany, exhibitions and other tournaments in Moldova, Austria, Slovakia will encourage the involvement of migrants and refugees in football, making more opportunities available.

Slovak group launch project in segregated Roma settlement to find new talents from excluded communities #FP2015 pic.twitter.com/CfrOAnffwZ

— Fare (@farenet) October 20, 2015

Empowering Roma communities
From Western to Eastern Europe the Football People grassroots movement will use the campaign’s momentum to place anti-Roma discrimination in the spotlight and highlight football’s power to create positive change.

In Spain and Portugal groups will work towards increasing football opportunities for Roma. On 17, 19 and 21 October, the Instituto Universitário da Maia will host workshops in three different cities of the Porto metropolitan region on gender and football. Designed to address Roma people and organisations working with Roma, the sessions aim to educate and challenge cultural barriers and stereotypes that prevent Roma women participating in sport.

Fare member FAGiC, a not-for-profit umbrella uniting 84 Roma associations from all over Catalonia, organised a conference on the topic on 14 October.

The conference was held in Barcelona and the city’s two main clubs FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol joined the former Portugal and Espanyol player Sonia Matias, Catalonia FA officials, Roma associations and politicians, to discuss the importance of sports for Roma inclusion.

In Ukraine, the Kiev-based group International Charitable Organization Roma Women fund invited 21 teams with players from different backgrounds and origins, including two Roma teams from Uzhgorod and Kharkiv, to a football tournament in Odessa between 8 and 10 October. A documentary was filmed during the event, focusing mostly on the Roma teams and the role of football in their lives.

The organisation also held a roundtable event in Verhovna Rada under the theme ‘Football as the instrument of social inclusion and peacemaking among multicultural society of Ukraine’, which was attended by a member of each team. The initiative was recorded and will be broadcast on radio in the hope of break stereotypes against Roma and other national minorities living in Ukraine.

In Bulgaria, a Sliven-based organisation offered young Roma the possibility to voice their views on exclusion and discrimination among local institutions and media.

In Slovakia, where the Council of Europe recently said that strategies for Roma integration and for combating social exclusion have failed, Fare partner IPMD hosted a sport and culture event in the segregated Roma settlement of Moldava nad Bodvou in East Slovakia.

The pilot event, which was held on Sunday 18 October, is pilot project that along with the Slovak FA will look to find football talents from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and socially excluded communities.

In Newport, Wales, the human rights organisation The Bigger Picture will hold taster sessions for Roma, similar initiatives will follow in Kosovo, Romania and Czech Republic.

ISMAI/Maiêutica university (Portugal) 1st #FootballPeople workshop on gender & football for Roma communities #FP2015 pic.twitter.com/9Z0M8KAOHf

— Fare (@farenet) October 18, 2015

Exciting #FootballPeople event in today in #Moscow. Empowering African and Muslim women through football. pic.twitter.com/CvcxiGRKXj

— Fare (@farenet) October 18, 2015

Wonderful day! #refugeeswelcome tournament in desio #FootballPeople @farenet @comunedidesio pic.twitter.com/qW9RojZf4l

— tikitakaunited (@TikiTaka_United) October 17, 2015

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