details of interview
Role of the Interviewed: football coach
Type of radicalization: ethnic discrimination
Historical period collocation: 2017
Date/Country of the Interview: 20/09/2018, Greece
Interviewer: Municipality of Evrotas
Municipality of Evrotas
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 Football Coach and I have worked in many sport clubs and amateur football associations. Last year, while working in an amateur local football association and I was training teams of children aged between 10-15 years old, I experienced incidents of racism among the children of one of the teams.
Telling your story. What has happened? How has the story started?
This amateur local football association is a located in a quite small town, however the town is inhabited by many immigrants as it is mostly a rural area with huge areas of crops where they are usually employed. So, every year, a lot of children with migration background are enrolled in the association and take part in the training sessions.
Last year, in one of the teams which I was coaching, one kid with migration background was enrolled in the middle of the year and was the only new member.
How did you realize what was going on? What kind of signals could you detect? How do you explain radicalization, referring to your experience?
In the beginning, everything seemed to be going well, all the kids were hanging together both during the workouts and the matches and after, they were cooperating and they were also having fun. Unfortunately, at some point, I noticed that this had stopped and on the contrary the kid with the migration background was isolated, was sitting alone and during the workout the other kids were unpleasant comments, targeting his background and origin.
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?
Firstly, as a human being but also as a football coach, who should be fair, give equal opportunities and promote cooperation, teamwork and fair play, I decided to intervene. So at first place, I arranged a meeting with all the parents of the kids and in cooperation with other coaches from the association we conducted speeches and a general talk, including parents’ opinions and thoughts, about the learning values that someone can acquire through sports, but also about deviant behaviors among kids and how they can be managed. The group meeting was followed by individual meetings with the parents of the kids who presented aggressive behavior, but also with the parents of the child that was isolated. Unfortunately, no one of the parents had realized what was going on, but they were definitely committed to begin open and ongoing conversations with their children about differences, diversity and discrimination, as we proposed.
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?
In the beginning, I was very disappointed as these discriminatory incidents and the isolation of the child were escalating and I felt that I was not prepared or trained to handle a situation like that, but I was feeling that I had to solve this problem. So I started researching on the web, reading studies and ways approaching those kind of situations, as well as practices in order not also to stop the incidents but to prevent future cases.
The most difficult part was at the beginning of this situation, when I understood what was going on and I was feeling unable to help the child and solve the problem.
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?
Fortunately, all parents willingly cooperated with us and week by week the situation got a lot better until everything went back to normal. All the kids were hanging together during the workouts, the matches and after, they were cooperating and they were also having fun.
After this experience, I strongly believe that discussing discrimination and facing such situations can be hard enough even for adults. Talking to kids about the subject can be especially challenging, however diversity and discrimination are subjects that shouldn’t be ignored. Parents but also coaches and teachers are playing a very important and critical role both in facing and preventing discrimination that is why they should often talk to kids about the evils of prejudice and discrimination and the value of diversity.