children playing football

details of interview

Role of the Interviewed: sport school teacher

Age: 56

Gender: female

Nationality: Italian

Type of radicalization: racial discrimination

Historical period collocation: 2018

Date/Country of the Interview: 08/11/2018 Italy

Interviewer: USMA in collaboration with FISPPA Dept., University of Padua


Have you witnessed or experienced personal situations of radicalization during your activity in sport organizations? What kind of radicalizations have you detected? (Gender, politics, religion, racism, crime, homophobia…)


I am a Professor of Sport Sciences and I have been teaching in a Secondary School attended by a number of students with migration backgrounds for several years. There are specific programs dedicated to young people with migratory background designed to promote a successful integration. Many of them regularly practice team sports in grassroots sport clubs and, in particular, soccer. During the training sessions for the Soccer Student Championships, I knew about the story of one of the participating students that highlights some aspects related to ethnic radicalization.
Telling your story. What has happened? How has the story started?
It is the story of a 15 years old boy with a migratory background. He was born in Italy from a family with North African origins. He began to practice soccer at the age of six and weekly he regularly runs 2/3 workouts plus the match in weekends. In the 2016/2017 season, after a game contrast during the match, he is invested by racial insults by a player of the other team.
It had never happened before but the reaction did not wait: the boy tackles the opponent and is warned with a yellow card by the referee. Despite the warning, he continues to play in a foul manner. He feels anger grow inside him because he thinks to be victim of an injustice. In his view his reaction was proportional to the offense and did not deserve a warning (the yellow card). He decided to face the opponent outside the locker room and, approaching him, asked him for explanations. There were no explanations. This caused him an irrepressible movement of anger that leaded into physical violence. The other teammates intervened to hold him back. The referee assisted to the scene and the day after informed the sport club of having banned the player for three matches for incitement to the fight.
How did you realize what was going on? What kind of signals could you detect? How do you explain radicalization, referring to your experience?
The story was collected thanks to my solicitation after having observed during the activity in class that the student appeared submissive in the attitude and detached from the other teammates.
Have you tried to cope with this situation? What was possible to do? What have you done? Have you involved other people/organizations? Who was involved?
The situation was managed by the coach who, according to the story told of the student, before the training following the episode analyzed the dynamics of the episode, stressing the fact that the insult received by the player was to be considered only as a provocation intended to unnerve and distract him. He invited the boy not to give importance to such episodes and words.
Did you feel you had the skills to manage this kind of situations? Which was the most difficult part of it? Have you had any form of support?
My intervention with the student could simply result in an examination of what happened, in order to understand what kind of consequences this episode might have produced on him and, possibly, intervene in the most appropriate way at the educational level. The boy is aware of being wrong and realizes that he has to work on himself, learning to control his disproportionate reactions because, as he himself states, he must show not be “inferior” (to the provocations). At the same time he knows that he is not willing to tolerate these forms of violence and asks for respect for his person and his origins: the same respect he affirms to show towards others.
End of the story. How did the story end up? What have you learned from this personal experience? What would you say to people who are living similar situations?
The student’s soccer team has broken up and he is waiting to continue to practice soccer in a new club. Meanwhile, he has enrolled to participate in the Student Championships.
Conclusions. Are there other relevant aspects related to (de)radicalization that you want to highlight?
The episode narrated and the way in which it has been managed gives rise to ethical, social and pedagogical reflections. The approach of grassroots sport clubs is different from that of the scholastic community, and reveals a need for cultural change that could help in boosting the role of sport in promoting individual and collective well-beings. Sport should also promote the values of tolerance, equality and social inclusion, in particular with respect to the so-called “second generations”.
As sports federations are involved in the fight against ethnic discrimination, by designing regulations and punishments against discriminatory behaviors in the field or among fans, at the same time they should become promoters of specific training programs aimed at those operating in the competitive world, starting from the grassroots sport clubs, in order to fully carry out their social and educational role.
education and anti-racism