details of interview
Role of the Interviewed: Street soccer board member
Type of radicalization: nationality based
Historical period collocation: 2016
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 2016, while we were participating in a sports competition in Glasgow - Scotland (at the same time that the Euro 2016 cup was being disputed and that Portugal end it up winning – which is relevant as a background for this story.
On our way from the accommodation to the venue where we were going to play, our group of 12 people, duly equipped and identified as being the Portuguese team was approached by a group of locals.
Suddenly a group of locals started to be aggressive and to intimidate us as they spit on our youngsters and insult us saying, for example, that we were Europe's junk and demanding that we return to our country.
Our youngsters became disoriented, frightened and later frustrated that they had been treated in this way.
Staff took them from there as quickly as possible to avoid any further physical aggression by the locals.
Throughout this process and as a result of the extensive work of developing personal and social skills with these youngsters, they kept together and gave support to their peers encouraging them never to respond 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?
Everything happened really fast and intensively so when we realized what was happening, it was already over. The intensity of the situation became clear when we saw fear in our youngsters face.
I consider this an example of radicalization considering that the behavior of the group of locals approaching us was a result of discrimination and prejudice against a nationality different from their own, triggered by the fact that our team was having a good performance in the event unlike the host team (who had been defeated by Portugal).
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?
We took our youngsters from the place as soon as possible, fearing physical aggressions by the group of local inhabitants. The fact that our group did not react to the insults and provocations does not mean that it did not have an impact on group members, because in fact they were afraid, frightened and in the end revolted by the situation that they had experienced. 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 which end it up underestimating it taking into consideration the context in those days (Brexit, Euro cup).
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, not reacting to the 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 was not resolved and the aggressors certainly kept having similar attitudes. 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.