Football is one of the most useful tools in breaking down misunderstandings about other cultures and spreading the anti-racism message. That’s according to Fianna Fáil TD for Donegal North East, Niall Blaney, who yesterday (28.10.09) captained a group of Oireachtas members in a football match against a team of staff and diplomats from embassies based in Ireland.
The five-a-side match was played at the all-weather pitch at the Oliver Bond flats in Dublin’s south inner city. The match marked the culmination of 10 days of activities around the country to mark Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) Week 2009.
The activities for FARE Week have been coordinated in Ireland by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). According to Deputy Blaney, “While football can be divisive, it is also incredibly powerful in uniting people and breaking down barriers.
Now that Ireland is a multicultural society, we need to encourage children and adults to grow their understanding of the many new communities now represented amongst our neighbours, schools and workmates. Because football is such a widely played and supported game, it is a critical tool in preventing racism and growing better cultural understanding.
“The uniting capacity of football is nowhere more present than in the Oireachtas: when we line out for a match for charity or to support a cause, we all leave our political divisions aside and work as a team. We are very pleased to support this inaugural FARE Week political vs. diplomatic corps match, and hopefully, the initiative will grow over the coming years as FARE Week develops.”
Deputy Blaney complimented the ongoing work of the FAI in using football as a tool in schools and youth clubs to grow cultural awareness, and said such programmes continue to receive support from a range of Government Departments and agencies.
During the past 10 days, over 140 community groups, football clubs and schools participated in FARE week.
In addition, the FAI and UEFA undertook activities at national and pan-European levels.
Activities have included:
· At the Ireland v. Montenegro game in mid-October, a special exhibition match took place during half-time and an anti-racism advertisement was broadcast in Croke Park. Information on the FARE initiative was also included in all match programmes.
· At club level, a number of League of Ireland clubs participated in the Adult Futsal League and hosted Club Open Days and an Urban Youth Blitz for six to 19 year-olds. · At grassroots level, schools and community organisations – with support from the FAI – promoted the anti-racism message in select schools through the ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ programme. The programme combined teaching resources with football development skills, as well as an interschool tournament to promote awareness of racism and understanding of multiculturalism.
· The Kicking off with English Language Skills After-School Programme (KOELS) was launched in a range of schools. This programme will run for eight weeks and use football games as a tool to develop English language skills for schoolchildren with language difficulties.
According to Des Tomlinson, National Coordinator for Intercultural Football at the FAI, “The response to FARE Week 2009 has been excellent and we are pleased that so many clubs, schools and community groups got involved. Ireland is now a multicultural society, so it’s important that we find ways of challenging prejudices and growing awareness of different cultures. Football is the world’s most popular sport, played in every corner of the globe, so it can play a hugely significant role in combating racism and promoting cultural diversity and respect.
“At international and professional club level, racism is less of an issue, but it still persists at a more local level. In parts of Europe, we are also witnessing a rise in racism. Irish fans can play an important role in ensuring that racist behaviour does not take hold here,” he added.