Two years after its launch, Ponte Alerta Contra el Racismo en el Fútbal (which translates as Beware of Racism in Peruvian Football) speaks to Fare about its work in Peruvian football.
The historical context
“The problems of discrimination in Peru date back to the Spanish conquest.” explained the Ponte Alerta representative Gonzalo Silva Infante.
“From then until now, racism and xenophobia have always been part of our society, of its structure, and became almost something ‘natural.’ It affects everyone, but mostly the black and indigenous communities. It was like this in the past and still is today” he added.
For this reason, successive governments have dedicated special attention to the promotion of a multicultural society. An increasing interest of the media in reporting incidents also helped to raise awareness of the problem among the public opinion.
It was in this context that the Ministry’s Department of Cultural Diversity and Anti-Racism created Ponte Alerta Contra el Racismo and, years after, Ponte Alerta Contra el Racismo en el Fútbol.
“What we tried to do from the beginning was to use football and its popularity to actively inform people about discrimination and raise awareness of the problem through first-person testimonies, pictures and through the sport’s main actors: players, coaches and presidents.
“On the other hand, we also noticed that there was a high number of discriminatory incidents in football.” explained Gonzalo.
In football, he explained, “racist demonstrations are very clear and mostly targeted at black players; every time a black player kicks the ball you hear monkeys chants.”
Racism in Peruvian football
In 2013 and 2014, Peruvian football was hit by a series of incidents of discriminatory nature. Among these, a particular one caused an outcry in South America.
“You may remember the incident with the Brazilian player Tinga. He was subjected to racist chants when his club, Cruzeiro, played against Real Garcilaso, in Huancayo, during a 2014 Copa Libertadores match.
“The player reported the incident to the Brazilian press and the repercussion made the Governments of both countries get involved. The Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff condemned the incident and her counterpart here in Peru did so too.” explained the representative.
“Since the campaign was launched these type of incidents have been reported and sanctioned by the respective authorities”, said Gonzalo, “But in the beginning we noticed that we needed to work on the issues around reporting.”
According to Ponte Alerta, the major part of the society is not informed about discrimination, how to report or deal with it.
“Not many people know that discrimination can be punished with a 3 or 4-year jail term.
“So, we had to mobilise efforts to introduce this concept of ‘zero tolerance’ to discrimination in the Peruvian society and encourage incidents to be reported.”
On the results of that work Gonzalo pointed out a growing awareness.
“In football, particularly, there has been a positive change. Football authorities are paying more attention to these incidents and have sanctioned clubs and fans.
“A growing culture of respect is starting to spread across Peruvian football, there is more respect inside the stadiums, towards the players, visiting teams or any other intervenient.” he added.
The campaigning work
Ponte Alerta Contra el Racismo en el Fútbol works across different levels of the game to inform and raise awareness of discrimination and, at the same time, provide tools, wether through training or other resources, such as its recent mobile app, for people to report and tackle discrimination.
Since its start, the campaign has counted with the support of Peru’s governmental and football authorities, as well as top tier clubs and the Players’ Association.
“The work we do is developed in a close relationship with football clubs, mostly the premier league ones.
“We first started to work with Universitario de Deportes and Sporting Cristal, and in 2014, the third team with the largest number of followers, Alianza Lima, joined as well.” explained Gonzalo.
Together, clubs and Ponte Alerta, have organised awareness-raising activities in stadiums, including the distribution of informative resources (flyers, stickers and leaflets) on racism and discrimination, reporting procedures and sanctions, and also videos and on-pitch activities with players.
“We have also worked with the youth teams of Universitario, Sporting and Alianza because in a few years they will be the ones playing at the highest level and it is important that they are aware of all this as well, aware of the rights that all Peruvians have.” he said.
Moreover, training and capacity-building activities, workshops and seminars, for referees, match and stadium officials are also frequently held to inform these on how to act and react in cases of discriminatory abuse.
Other initiatives, such as the campaigns ‘Hagamos goles #contraelracismo’ and ‘Metele goles al racismo’ (in English, Let’s score goals against racism) and the distribution of good practice guides for journalist have also been held as part of the platform’s campaign.