details of interview
Role of the Interviewed: Street soccer board member
Type of radicalization: nationality based
Historical period collocation: 2013
Date/Country of the Interview: 15/02/2019, Portugal
Interviewer: Rosto Solidário
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…)
Telling your story. What has happened? How has the story started?
In 2013, while my team was participating in a sports competition in Poznan - Poland.
Anytime we go abroad to attend sports competitions we seek to give our young athletes the opportunity to experience other activities that might foster their personal development such as recreational, cultural or educational activities. In this sense we organized a walk with our team members through the historical center of the city allowing them to get to know the historical sites. This was planned to be a normal tour of a group of 12 people, duly equipped and identified as the Portuguese team, waiting to explore a new city, considering that for most of the youngsters this was the first experience abroad.
During the tour we began to hear someone scream at our group. First in an unknown language for us (possibly Polish) and then in English. The group that approached us started by calling some of our youngsters "monkeys", later imitating the body language of the primates and then asked the youngsters if they wanted bananas. As our youngsters stood indifferent to this insults, the attackers raised the level of insults and started to shout that our group should leave their country, continuously stating that we were not welcome.
Throughout this process and as a result of the extensive work of developing personal and social skills with these youngsters, they stayed together, kept walking, looking straight ahead and never replying to any of the insults or taunts.
How did you realize what was going on? What kind of signals could you detect? How do you explain radicalization, referring to your experience?
Initially it was not clear what was happening because the insults were in a language that our group did not understood. When the insults were voiced in English and accompanied by gestures, it became clear what our group was experiencing.
I consider this an example of radicalization considering that the behaviour of the group attacking us was a result of discrimination and prejudice against a race and nationality different from their own, triggered by the fact that our team was having a good performance in the event unlike the host team.
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?
At the moment we tried to manage the situation trying to stay as indifferent as possible, pretending to ignore the group that was insulting us and keeping the walk as planned seeking to avoid any kind of physical or verbal confrontation. The fact that the group did not react to insults and provocations at the time doesn’t mean that had no impact over our group youngsters, especially those directly targeted by the insults.
However, as a result of our work with them, the youngsters knew that the insults and provocations they suffered were due to the lack of information and knowledge of the attacking group. The youngsters were accompanied by the whole technical team. The situation was reported to the event organization members and local authorities that did apologize but underestimated anyway the set of happenings.
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?
Yes. We felt that our youngsters responded in the best way, ignoring provocations. Despite the frightening situation, we felt that it was a test on their personal development and their resilience, self-control and self-confidence (as well as the trust in the staff) were crucial.
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?
In fact, the situation has not solved per se. However, as a group we have learned that despite the humiliating experience, particularly for those affected, the support of our youngster’s peers was crucial to avoid that this bad experience has a greater (negative) impact on themselves and their self-esteem. In similar situations we believe that avoiding confrontation is the best. The fact that the aggressors were in a group galvanizes their behaviour and the confrontation can easily escalate to the physical aggression. Therefore, our position and recommendation is that in similar situations, if possible, contact should be avoided and the situation should be immediately reported to the authorities.
Conclusions. Are there other relevant aspects related to (de)radicalization that you want to highlight?
Radicalization, particularly in sports, is often fuelled by peer pressure and a great lack of information/ ignorance. It is therefore essential to foster education for citizenship and to develop with our youngsters the ability to reflect.