The FIGC’s decision to accept the team sets a precedent. In many parts of Europe those without host country nationality (third country nationals) are often banned from playing sport by governing bodies. Europe’s long asylum application processes also discourage refugees and migrants setting up or joining clubs to play in mainstream football leagues.
ASD Cara Mineo is an amateur club from Sicily with twenty-five players that was founded after the residents of a migrant reception centre began to hold football tournaments among themselves.
Migrants from countries such as Gambia, Mali, Somalia, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Cameroon are part of a team now playing in the tenth tier of the Italian Third Category. The team drew 1-1 in the debut match against a club that may become local rivals, Atletico Biancavilla.
Danso the captain of the squad said before the match, “Today is a very important day for us because we are finally going to participate in a real championship. Our future is still very uncertain, most of us faced many difficulties coming to Europe and this league represents a new and more welcome challenge.”
The team had to miss the first three matches of the championship because its players could not be registered without residence permits, a situation which was overcome “with the goodwill of all parts involved” they explained.
The inclusive power of footbal
In Italy several other groups have started to use football as tool for integration for the refugees and asylum seekers that cross the country’s borders.
In Rome, the Liberi Nantes Football Club has been working since 2007 with residents of asylum shelters and refugees centers.
The President of Liberi Nantes and Fare Board member Daniela Conti explains the importance of the initiative:
“For us sport is a way of integrating these men in our society, it is a small but important contribution towards that goal”.
After the success of the football team, the club has started to offer other sports such as ‘touch rugby’ and hiking, and mixed activities to include female refugees and children.