03 Mrt FOOTBALL: strengthen the fabric of society
Some people willingly put themselves in situations where they are surrounded by diversity and some spend their whole lives trying to insulate themselves from others. Refugees don’t usually have that luxury of choice; they have to live in a community of people from many countries with many different cultural backgrounds. The most noticeable thing about meeting people from around the world is not the differences, but our striking similarities.
It is in these things we share which show our humanity. There are some things everyone can understand no matter their background, which I like to think of as ‘universal languages’. One of these is football, or ‘soccer’ as the Americans call it. Like music and art, football doesn’t rely on language and thus can be easily understood around the world. Football has united people from all levels of society who watch and play the sport.
With such a visible presence on the world stage, football can also be a powerful tool to communicate. During a match in Greece last November, coaches and players of both teams sat for two minutes of silence in solidarity with the refugees crossing the Aegean Sea. The announcement over the PA stated:
“The administration of AEL, the coaches and the players will observe two minutes of silence just after the start of the match in memory of the hundreds of children who continue to lose their lives every day in the Aegean due to the brutal indifference of the EU and Turkey.
The players of AEL will protest by sitting down for two minutes in an effort to drive the authorities to mobilise all those who seem to have been desensitised to the heinous crimes that are being perpetrated in the Aegean.”
The International Olympic Committee announced earlier that the flame for the 2016 games will pass through the Eleonas camp in Athens, with a refugee bearing the torch.
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Refugees awaiting their status are deprived of many rights and opportunities we take for granted, such as healthcare, schooling, and even participating in sports teams. To respond to this need, the Amsterdam group “We Are Here” (Wij Zijn Hier) created its own football team, open to asylum seekers who cannot join local teams due to a lack of documents. The team provides a space for members to exercise and maintain a positive outlook, despite the difficult and uncertain situation members are living in.
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In the 90th issue of COLORS magazine the diversity of football is on display in a beautiful collection of stories and illustrations. In the issue you can learn about indigenous-only teams from the Amazon forest and Andean heights, a Danish squad of elderly gentlemen, the Czech Republic’s blind Avoy MU club, a team of South African lesbians taking the field to fight homophobia, Tanzania’s Albinos United playing against persecution, Italian priests, Egyptian ultras, and a group of match-fixing imposters from Togo.
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