On this day in 1997, the first Mondiali Antirazzisti, or Antiracist World Championship, was held. In 2020, due to corona, it is – just like the Euro2020 – postponed.
Author: Enrico Cavalieri, FMH developer and history teacher.
In this article:
Mondiali Antirazzisti 2017 Football tournament (Photo: Domenico Paolicelli).
Euro2020 not the only postponed tournament
Not only the men European Championship of football is missing in 2020. This summer will be the first since 1997 without an edition of “Mondiali Antirazzisti”, the “Antiracist World Championship”, which has been suspended as all public events in Italy because of the Coronavirus epidemic. What is this tournament about? A non-competitive tournament in which teams should be composed by people with different origins, different genders, different ages and different sizes. What game do these teams play? In the latest editions there was basketball, volleyball, cricket and rugby, but everything started from football.
In 1997 a youth exchange camp was organized by Istoreco, the Institute which studies Italian Resistance’s history in the city of Reggio Emilia, in the part of Italy in which the civil war between partisans and fascists during World War II had its longest and hardest course. The exchange was between students coming from the German city of Bremerhaven, and the local Reggio Emilia, Montefiorino (Modena) and Bologna. Istoreco is part of a network which counts around 80 institutes in all the country, all of them studying history, keeping documents and organizing projects connected to the history of Resistance, and more generally to the values of Italian Constitution, which by Resistance was inspired.
One of these projects was called Progetto Ultrà (Project Ultra), and it had the goal of involving organized football supporters’ groups into initiatives dealing with issues like violence (in the stadiums and outside), racism and excessive marketing of football. In the previous 20 years the word ultrà in Italy had been commonly related with these terms, especially violence and racism, as problems strictly connected with the idea of ultras being basically criminals, exploiting football stadiums to express their bad social attitudes and remain unpunished. The idea of Progetto Ultrà instead was to deal with these problems with the ultras groups themselves, and try to face and solve these matters from inside, together, and not only with a law and order approach. An institutional partner in this project was UISP (Italian Federation of Sport for Everybody), which has always had the goal of promoting sport practise in all society, specially among the poorest parts of it.
From a game, a tournament was born
The small town where this camp took place was Montefiorino (Modena), a place with a historical meaning, once again related to Resistance. On that mountain village local partisans had created a 45-days liberated zone in 1944, during Nazi occupation, it was called the Montefiorino Republic. So the key words of the project were Resistance, non-violence, antisexism, antiracism and football. A small tournament with eight teams was organized on the second day of the camp, which happened to be July 26th, and that tournament was organized again in the following years, taking the name of Mondiali antirazzisti, and getting to almost 200 teams, 7,000 people involved and 1,200 kids in the camp, in the latest editions. In 2019 the Mondiali became more widespread. Other editions were organized in Riace (Reggio Calabria), Prato, Florence, Brescia and, crossing the borders and spreading into Europe, with an edition held in Copenhagen.
Winning is not the point
The games are like regular football, but winning is not what matters. The most important rule is to not show too much agonism on the pitch. The point is staying together and enjoying the time, playing football, volleyball, basketball, rugby, and more. Racist and sexist behaviours or talks have no place in the tournament, and players can be sent off for that reason, if the community decides that it is deserved.
The first tournament in 1997 lasted one day. It had 8 teams and about 80 participants. Four years later, the fifth edition saw 100 teams and more than 1,000 participants. In 2004 the “mixed teams” (males and females playing together) were 70% of the whole, and the participants were 5,000. The following year, in addition to football and basketball tournaments, an exhibition of cricket was organized, involving mostly people with Indian, Bengali and Pakistani origin. In 2007 the 45% of teams were composed by people with different nationality, and for the first time a team with mixed Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian people arrived from Sarajevo. In the following years different issues were chosen as main themes, such as homophobia, more tournaments were added, like volleyball and rugby, and some professional athletes decided to join the manifestation and be officially present.
Inclusive to newcomers
In 2019 the tournament moved to Riace (Reggio Calabria) in the very south of Italy, a small town where an interesting experiment had been done. The former Mayor Mimmo Lucano practised a reception policy helping refugees and immigrants, which arrived in Calabria and Sicily from Libya and often continued their journey towards northern Italy and Europe, to settle down there, in a town that like many others of southern Italy had been progressively abandoned by locals because of emigration to the north or abroad. So, an edition of the tournament was played in that small town, because its administration was sharing so many values and goals with Mondiali Antirazzisti’s people.
In 2020 many public events in Europe have been delayed or canceled. The organizers of Mondiali antirazzisti have built a strong network of collaboration. Thanks to that, many events like debates, book presentations, workshops could be organized, making Mondiali antirazzisti an international cultural event where the values of antidiscrimination were put at the centre. Next year, 2021 will be a re-starting year also for Mondiali Antirazzisti’s international big family.
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