young soccer

details of interview

Role of the Interviewed: amateur football player

Age: 18

Gender: male

Nationality: Nigerian

Type of radicalization: racial discrimination

Historical period collocation: 2018

Date/Country of the Interview: 08/11/2018 Italy

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

Story collected by: Igor Giammanco

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

Yes, I had experienced racism earlier this year (2018), when I started playing in a football team. Actually, I could only train, and not take part in official matches, for document-related problems. Nevertheless, I was involved in playing some “friendly” matches against other soccer teams. I have been part of my team only for three months, then I had to leave.

Telling your story. What has happened? How has the story started? How did you realize what was going on? What kind of signals could you detect? How do you explain radicalization, referring to your experience?

At the beginning, get integrated in the team was not easy. I was the only foreigner and I had some difficulties with the language, so that we could not understand each other very well. At first I did not believe they were racist towards me, despite some strange episodes. For example: once I passed a bottle of water to my teammates but they did not want to drink from it. I could not understand why, because they were used to drink from the same bottle and always passed the bottles one to another. And there was also someone who started mocking me, but as they were just few of them, I did not care much about that.

Then it happened that during a training match I had a game collision with one of my mates, and he reacted badly, telling me "son of a b***". So, I pushed him to the ground and I was starting to fight him. Our other companions intervened, not to separate us but attacking me. Fortunately, the coach and another person stopped them. Since then, however, the situation has worsened. When I went to the training most of the teammates were against me, and I received many insults. For example, they told me that I stink, or they made fun of my skin or making fun of me by imitating a monkey.

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? 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?

It was hard to bear all this, but for a while I tried, because I was just interested in playing soccer. I thought they would eventually stop that. It was also difficult for me to find another team where to play. But it was not easy, because I had no one to talk with about this, and nobody who could help me. Only a few teammates were kind to me, they talked to me, but they were just few. They told me that with those people it is better to be quiet, because they are just ignorant. There were also other teammates that did not openly offend me, at the same time they kept laughing every time I was insulted. They did not even speak to me. Even the coach did not say anything, but sometimes I saw he laughing and saying bad things about me to other people. That’s why I did not talk about the situation with him, because I knew he did not want to help me because he, also, is racist. Moreover, if he really wanted to help me, there was need to ask (as the situation was quite clear). I spoke with the other operators and also with the community manager. They said that I had to stay calm and not to react and that they would have solved the situation. But , at the end they never talked to the teammates or the coach.

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?

It happened that the coach made a phone call to the community centre where I was living telling the manager that it was better if I no longer went to trainings. She told me to wait for a while, until the situation would get quieter, and later on she would talk to the coach in order to make me come back to play soccer. But she never did anything. And maybe it was better this way, because I did not want to go back to them. I did not want to see them anymore. It was a situation that made me feel bad.
What I learned is not very good. First, I learned that it is difficult for me to play football here, just because I am not Italian. Still today, I can’t play. That was my last time with a football team here in Italy. It's also difficult because there are problems with documents. I have other friends having the same difficulties about this. Besides that, I do not feel like playing any longer.
Second, I saw that there are many Italians who are racists, and I do not like that. I realized that I do not want to be in a place where people think this way. Now, here in *** I fell better, because there are more Nigerians and Africans and we're fine with each other. Some friends I met helped me to find a job.

producing marginalization and ghettoization