runner

details of interview

Role of the Interviewed: Athlete

Age: 23

Gender: male

Nationality: Moldavian

Type of radicalization: disability and racism

Historical period collocation: 2011

Date/Country of the Interview: 02/08/2018, Italy

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

Story collected by: Anthony Civolani

USMA

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…)

athlete

My name is Denis and I have Moldavian roots. I emigrated with my mother to Italy when I was 14 years old.  After I arrived, to feel part of the community, I decided to participate in school sports. The radicalization that I felt immediately concerns two aspects of my life: my disability and racism for my origins.

Telling your story. What has happened? How has the story started?

I suffer from a disability since birth. I have a limb that has not developed due to the radiation from Chernobyl because I come from a city that is not far from where the nuclear explosion happened in 1986, Soroka. I never thought it was a problem because in Moldova nobody ever made fun of me. I have always done everything and drive the car since I was 16 years old. Even my features have created situations of racism because here I am exchanged for a Moroccan. In order not to feel excluded, I decided to practice the sport that I like, and I dedicated myself to running with the school's athletics team.

How did you realize what was going on? What kind of signals could you detect? How do you explain radicalization, referring to your experience?

Like any teenage boy, I was interested and looked at the girls. During athletic training I approached a group of girls who were training. Among them there was a girl that I liked a lot, so I tried to approach her while we ran but she in front of her group of friends she told me: "How disgusting you are with that arm!! do you really think I can like it?
Get out Grebo!" (“Grebo” is an appellation often used offensively against people of Maghreb origins)

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?

I felt bad, all my certainties were canceled. I had never felt disabled, but that girl managed to make me feel a nobody. I did not want to be part of the athletics team anymore. So, at the end of the school year I informed the coach that I had decided to give up. At that point I explained to the coach what had happened and although he wanted to convince me, I stopped.

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?

I was not able to handle that situation. I looked for support in friends, I still spoke bad Italian, so I turned to my family to feel accepted.
From there I started to practice another sport and despite my disability I gave excellent results. I took all my anger and I turned it into a skill and I succeeded. I became a one-handed volleyball player. My teammates did not believe I could play well but I did.

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?

Today, a lot of time has passed. I no longer play volleyball, I play in an amateur football team made up of almost all foreigners. There are few Italians, we are all friends and we make fun of each other. Surely here there can be no episodes of racism because we understand each other. To anyone who happens to be discriminated, I say not to give up. Look for the sport that makes you feel good and continue.

Conclusions. Are there other relevant aspects related to (de)radicalization that you want to highlight?

Today I am married and with my wife we have two young children.
I think we need to start practicing sport from an early age because that is the only way we can eliminate racism. They do not see the differences we adults see and they can be better people.

facing multiple discrimination