Social integration projects in F.I.G.C. Youth Department

Giuseppe Madonna, Umberto Conte, Department of Sport Sciences and Wellness, Parthenope University, Naples, Italy.

Within the projects put in place to promote integration and fight against racism, the FIGC (Italian National Football Federation) has invested and continues to invest energies and resources, with a particular spring after Tavecchio’s election as president. An ad hoc Committee for integration and fight against racism was set up, coordinated by the former Olympic long jump champion Fiona May. Moreover, thanks to the support of the Juvenile and Scholastic Sector, three projects were developed to raise awareness among young people at various levels of schools and football schools, in addition to minors applying for asylum in the Protection System for Asylum Applicants and Refugees centers: the Projects “Razzisti? Una brutta razza”, “Tutti i colori del calcio” and “Rete”.

Introduction

The white paper on Sport, presented in July 11, 2007, the result of consultations and proposals involving all sports experts (from Olympic committees to sports federations, the Community institutions and the Member States, including an online consultation launched in February 2007), is the first comprehensive initiative on sport by the European Commission.

The objective of this document is to provide strategic guidelines on the role of sport in the European Union, improving its visibility in the definition of the European policies, and to increase public awareness on the needs and specificities of the sport sector (European Commission, 2007). Furthermore, the initiative is intended to create the maximum legal clarity between the interested parties; so the Commission, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, the autonomy of sports organizations and the current Community legal framework, develops the concept of specificity of sport within the limits of the current competences of the EU.

As the first comprehensive community initiative on sport, the white paper examines the Community acquis by establishing the Commission’s views regarding three aspects of European sport: social role, economic dimension and governance.

The Commission has drafted the white paper ensuring broad consultation with institutions and stakeholders, and this was largely possible thanks to the active and constructive role of the European Parliament, starting from its resolution of June 13, 1997, on the role of the European Union in the field of sport, and ending with more specific resolutions such as those on women and sport (2003), on sport and development and on doping in sport (2005), and on the fight racism in football (2006).

Among the 4 chapters that make up the white paper on Sport, the interest of this article falls on the role of sport in society; the paper refers to sport both as a sphere of human activity affecting particularly the citizens of the European Union, and as something with enormous potential to bring together and reach out to all, regardless of age or social origin. Almost the 60 % of European citizens participate in sporting activities on a regular basis, autonomously or by taking part in one of the 700 000 sports clubs which, in turn, are part of a whole series of associations and federations. The majority of sporting activities takes place in amateur structures. Professional sport is of growing importance and contributes also to the social role of sport. The fight against discriminations based on nationality plays an important role according to the EU, recalling in this respect the well-established Community case Law (Coakley, 2001).

Football and integration

Football has considerable numbers: about 250 million people play it at different levels, approximately 1.5 billion follow it with continuity and valuable economic interests revolve around it in hundreds of billions of Euros (Allison, 1998).

It is inevitable that, like the real society, the world revolving around football can be plagued by racial and integration issues. The UEFA, the Union of European football associations, cares very strongly about this issue and has drawn up an official document, the “Resolution n° 9: European football united against racism”. The political position declared in this document, and the corresponding anti-racism proposals, show that there is a deep awareness of the issue by this body.

The resolution in eleven points clarifies, among other things, that the main objective of the UEFA is “the promotion of soccer sport in a spirit of peace (…) without any form of discrimination “.

To abolish all forms of discrimination means to make a double operation: on the one hand, it means condemning the manifestations of intolerance, and on the other hand facilitating the integration processes between the parties. Sport in this sense has a strong educational power that acts on both points: not only its spirit does not provide any kind of intolerance, but on the contrary it stimulates natural processes of integration that are meant to make an individual a member of the society (Elling & de Knop, 2001).

Immigration is an extremely topical phenomenon that is  probably not destined to disappear quickly, given the causes that produce it. The phenomenon originates and is fed by the political and economic conditions of the countries of extremely critical and precarious origins, sometimes to the limits of the survival, so migration is the only hope for these people to find refuge and better living conditions (Garland, 2001; Giusti, 2011)

In parallel, in the countries where there are particularly intense migratory flows,  new social realities with their problems will unavoidably arise.

In all cases, apart from the concrete acceptance issues, taking action to overcome the barriers of “diversity”, be them religious, racial or cultural, means acting in articulated and complex contexts for which it needs to use appropriate and specific methodologies and interpretation keys, and in this sense soccer is particularly suited to act in contexts where new social realities arise and often have the critical problem of the integration processes and where conventional organizational and subsistence approaches are not sufficient.

The FIGC projects for integration

Within the projects put in place to promote integration and fight against racism, the FIGC (Federazione Italiana Gioco Calcio – Italian National Football Federation) has invested and continues to invest energy and resources, with a particular spring after Tavecchio’s election as president. An ad hoc Committee for integration and fight against racism was set up, coordinated by the former Olympic long jump champion Fiona May. Moreover, thanks to the support of the Juvenile and Scholastic Sector, three projects were developed to raise awareness among young people at various levels of schools and football schools, in addition to minors applying for asylum in the Protection System for Asylum Applicants and Refugees centers: the Projects “Razzisti? Una brutta razza”, “Tutti i colori del calcio” and “ Rete” (www.figc.it).

The project “Razzisti? Una brutta razza” was presented for the first time in February 2015 in Florence, during a ceremony in the presence of the city authorities. Strongly backed by the Federal President Carlo Tavecchio and devised by the Commission for integration and fight against racism chaired by Fiona May, it included a series of performances by Antonello Piroso in which the issue of racism  was addressed with a modern language, and which saw the participation of young players of the youth teams. The format included the involvement of guests from the world of culture, sports and entertainment, and had the aim to spread culture among youths, sportsmen and fans of today and tomorrow.

The project was divided into 3 complementary phases:

Parliamone in campo – in the weeks before the event the coaches of the youth teams involved proposed some occasions for an in-depth analysis on racism during the training sessions;

Presentiamoci al territorio – the project was explained in a press conference together with representatives of local institutions;

Solo per i ragazzi – with  the young people involved in a real show.

The project would involve tens of thousands of young guys by addressing important issues such as integration, acceptance of diversity and the plague of racism that affects the whole of society, including football. In its first edition, the project “Razzisti? Una brutta razza” was carried out in Florence, Turin, Catanzaro and Bari.

In the following season the project format changed slightly; the goal was always to use football as a vehicle to stimulate a “reflection” among young people on topics of current and future civil and social importance related to integration, acceptance, racism and knowledge of different cultures; to enter the competition, young people were invited to make a video that would raise awareness on racism in football, spread healthy competition values among the youths, athletes and fans, and that promotes respect, acceptance and integration of the other and of diversity against any form of discrimination (Tacon, 2007).

Today, to participate in it, it needs to make a video on racism. This video is uploaded to a web platform and voted first through social channels, and subsequently by the FIGC Commission for integration and fight against racism. The authors of the best videos win  technical material of the national football team.

The project “Tutti i colori del calcio” is aimed at young people in secondary schools of first and second level, their families and the educational figures involved in the education of youths.

The aim of the project is to use football as a vehicle to stimulate a “reflection” among young people on topics of current and future civil and social importance related to integration, acceptance, racism and knowledge of different cultures.

Tutti i Colori del Calcio” is a competition developed by the FIGC Commission for integration and fight against racism, with the aim to:

• Raise awareness among young people on racism in football

• Spread positive values of competition among the youths, sportsmen and fans of today and tomorrow

• Promote respect, acceptance and integration of the other and of diversity

• Fight against all forms of discrimination

The format of the competition consists of an “Educational” part, carried out in single institutions, and a “final event”.

Tutti i Colori del Calcio” wants to inspire schools in creating a video that should reflect and make people think on racism and all forms of discrimination inside and outside the stadiums. Every class is then required to make a movie that addresses the issue in terms of its many cultural, historical and social implications, documenting the events within the community, telling about their thoughts and experiences directly related to their daily sports and non-sports reality to promote the values of the project.

Every class uploads its video on the online platform and all the users can vote the elaborate they prefer, helping generate the final ranking.

Thanks to the consent of the online users and to the judgment of the MIUR– FIGC commission, it is possible to evaluate the elaborates by identifying those most deserving ones (Tailmoun, Valeri, & Tesfaye, 2014).

The project “Rete”, now in its second edition, sees football as a place for comparison, generation of ideas and attention to social issues.

It was developed during the meeting between the Juvenile and Scholastic Sector in 8 regions (Basilicata, Emilia Romagna, Lazio, Molise, Piedmont, Puglia, Sicily and Umbria) and 24 SPRAR (Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees) centers, and aims to contribute to the process of integration and acceptance of young migrants, employing the aggregative strength that football knows how to exercise. Thanks to the intervention of technicians of the Juvenile and Scholastic Sector, it was possible to unite 280 young guys of 24 SPRAR centers throughout the country.

The project “Rete” saw in 2015 the participation of 237 unaccompanied  minors of SPRAR centers, of which 116 were boys participating in the final phase. The initiative had joined 24 shelters, of which 16 reached the finals from 8 regions of Italy, for a total of 10 teams and 35 matches. A reduction in anxiety and depression in people at risk, the overall increase of happiness, clear improvements from a behavioral and emotional point of view: these are some of the feedbacks provided by the project “Rete”, also highlighted by a study of the Catholic University of Rome.

The project has been an excellent tool to convey positive values of football such as interaction and inclusion, having a great success which earned a special mention by the CONI (Italian National Olympic Committee) for programs about social policies (Hamil & Chadwick, 2010; McGuire, 2008).

References

Allison, L. (1998). Sport and Civil Society. Political Studies, 46, 709-726.

Coakley, J. (2001). Sport in Society. Issues and Controversies. Seventh edition. McGraw-Hill

Higher Education.

Elling, A. & de Knop, P. (2001). The Social Integrative Meaning of Sport: A Critical and Comparative Analysis of Policy and Practice in the Netherlands. Sociology of Sport Journal. Vol. 18, no. 4.

European Commission (2007). Libro bianco sullo sport. Rivista di diritto ed economia dello sport. Issn 1825 – 6678, vol. III, fasc.2.

Garland, J.R.M. (2001). Racism and antiracism in football. PalgraveMacmillan,Basingstoke.

Giusti, M. (2011). Immigrazione e consumi culturali. Un’interpretazione pedagogica. Laterza, Roma.

Hamil, S., & Chadwick, S. (2010), Managing Football: An International Perspective. Butterworth-

Heinemann, Oxford.

McGuire, B. (2008), Football in the community: still ‘the game’s best kept secret?. Soccer & Society, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 439-454.

Tacon, R. (2007), Football and social inclusion: evaluating social policy. Managing Leisure, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 1-23.

Tailmoun, M.A., Valeri, M., & Tesfaye, I., (2014). Campioni d’Italia? Le seconde generazioni e lo sport. Sinnons, Roma.

www.figc.it

Leggi l’articolo su Scienze e Ricerche: Giuseppe Madonna, Umberto Conte, Social integration projects in F.I.G.C. Youth Department, in Scienze e Ricerche n. 46, marzo 2017, pp. 43-45