young soccers

details of interview

Role of the Interviewed: soccer player

Age: 20

Gender: male

Nationality: Moroccan-Italian

Type of radicalization: religion and racism

Historical period collocation: 2015

Date/Country of the Interview: 10/11/2018 Italy

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

Story collected by: Alice Scurti

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…)

player

During soccer trainings I always felt being an integral part of the group. At least initially, I am sure that my skills in the role I played have helped me in building relationships. But in post-matches and after trainings, religion or the different ideas I had compared to the rest of the group, made me often feel often excluded. Moreover, I received racist insults in the pitch during matches.

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

Out of the pitch, in the locker rooms, for long I had difficulties in integrating with my team. In post-matches or during trainings I found myself confronting with misunderstandings regarding the acceptation of my religion. That happened also in moments and spaces dedicated to sharing ideas within the group. My faith and my education was mocked. For example, I was criticized because I did no drink alcohol and therefore I was not considered part of the group. I felt judged and excluded for something I consider of little importance for our task and goals as a soccer team. When my mates used to go out after trainings, there was a period in which I was not even invited. They thought that, as I was not going to drink, I would not be able to have fun. They were wrong!
This separation from the group in some aspects of our life was visible also in the different behaviours most of my mates was assuming when they were with me, one by one or in group. As individuals, they showed respect and comprehension towards my life-style, whereas when we were in group, they were transported by the collective feelings making me feel diverse and out of the team.
During matches, instead, it happened that I was victim of racist insults, coming from my mates and also by the fans when I did some mistakes. At the beginning I felt attacked and judged. Then, having got used to it, I preferred to think that they were caught in anger, lacking lucidity.

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

I detected some signals of what was happening in their jokes, in the usual insults in the changing room and in the exclusion from team parties. Their incapacity to understand someone having different ideas from theirs was also a sign of exclusion. I think they could react in a different way about our different cultures. In this case “radicalization” was due to indifference and little maturity of my mates. For a while, they could not accept the small divergences existing between me and them.

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 have always tried to solve single situations directly face-to-face with my mates, without looking for help from trainers or sport directors. I believed that these kind of problems were not related to the sport environment, but rather to social difficulties persons sharing a group.
I think I was pretty strong to react always with indifference to the insults in the pitch and also to the difficulties in the changing room. When possible, I tried to talk to the people I had problems with, in order to solve these problems, at least in the short run. But similar episodes continued to happened time to time.

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 think I managed this situation as better as I could, keeping knowing my mates despite these little problems and non becoming closed to other people. I tried to explain more and more times that our different life-style and our different religions should not become obstacles for the team. Anyone had the chance to get in touch with something different, another culture. This was the most difficult part, but training after training, things have started to change.

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?

My teammates started to be more and more open and available to establish a relationship with me going beyond life-style differences that were apparently opposing us. They have tried to respect me more and be more correct towards me and my religion, and they finally included me in the activities I was previously excluded.
The advice I can give to people that are living similar situations is to believe in themselves even when facing other people incapacity to understand cultural differences. Do not stop in front of prejudice, superficial and limited. We are the only ones that can overcome and cancel them completely with our attitude and behaviour towards other people.

overcoming prejudice