Anti-Racist World Cup 2008: introductory press conference07 July 2008

The introductory press conference for the 2008 UISP [Italian Sport for All Union] Anti-Racist World Cup took place at the Sesto Senso club in Bologna. Like last year the event itself will be held in Salvador Allende di Casalecchio Park in Reno, Bologna province from 9 to 13 July.
Among those present were Carlo Balestri, coordinator of Progetto Ultra, which co-organises the event every year with the Reggio Emilia ISTORECO [Institute for the History of Resistance and Contemporary Society], Mattias Durchfeld from ISTORECO, Simone Gamberini, Mayor of Casalecchio di Reno, and Vincenzo Manco, President of the Emilia Romagna UISP.
Following the traditional thank yous, Balestri provided a breakdown of the World Cup in figures: 204 teams, 28 countries, 50 communities many of which are mixed, and two teams of Afghan refugees. He then announced that this year the tournament would be twinned with the Pratello young offenders’ institute in Bologna, from which a mixed team of staff and prisoners would be participating, playing some matches in the park where the event will be held and some inside the prison. Balestri also explained that this edition would also be marked by initiatives from the ‘Fusion’ bar, run by the youngsters from web radio station, with ethnic music and discussions centring on second generation issues. Also regarding music, this year the organisers have decided to focus on emerging artists such as Roman rapper Amir.
Mattias Durchfeld spoke next and outlined the sporting programme: as well as the traditional 204-team football tournament, featuring increased female participation, there would be a 30-team basketball competition, a volleyball tournament, a two-day cricket tournament and, for the first time, a mini-cricket competition.
Durchfeld told a story that showed how the spirit of the World Cup remains alive throughout the year: one of the regular participants in the World Cup, the Lazionet team from Rome, have established a sports club called Liberi Nantes to carry out activities with refugees from various countries and will have a team taking part in the World Cup. This year there is also a more central role for the Piazza Antirazzista [Anti-Racist Square], where teams can present their activities through photographs, publications and debates, for which they are rewarded with three ‘bonus’ points for the group stages. The main focus of the Piazza Antirazzista will be issues related to the Roma and Sinti communities, victims of serious discrimination during recent years. In accordance with the World Cup’s integration policy, which promotes “not just solidarity, but equality”, the organisation has ‘enrolled’ some of the inhabitants of the nearby travellers’ camp on to the staff.
Mayor Simone Gamberini also stressed the importance of the link with the travellers’ camp, which started out as problematic but had a positive conclusion, and with the citizens involved in the event, particularly during the parade (probably on the Friday) which, led by five Brazilian Samba groups, would finish at the busy Casalecchio Lido.
Vincenzo Manco expressed his admiration for Gamberoni, whose hosting of the World Cup represented a vote of confidence in its less-than-guaranteed success, in the name of the shared values that link him to the event. “The World Cup,” explained Manco, “Is a demonstration of the UISP’s increasingly international leanings.” In this context he mentioned the recently concluded Rimini 2008 Sport for all festival, with the international CSIT [Confédération Sportive Internationale du Travail] championships. Manco then presented the activities of the UISP marquee, its prison-related activities (on three fronts: Bologna, Rome and Varese) and those for the 2009 Social Forum, to be held in the Brazilian city of Belem.
The World Cup and UISP programmes are a response to government policies, which tend to penalise socially conscious sport”, concluded the President of the Emilia Romagna UISP.
Finally, there was mention of the event’s environmental sustainability, through the careful collection of items for recycling, and the importance of all the organisations involved on which its success is based: the staff of and the Tamburo, the Sesto Senso organisation, the documentary film makers from the DER [Documentary makers from Emilia Romagna], the FARE [Football Against Racism in Europe] network, the Emilia Romagna Region, the Province of Bologna, the Coop, UC and – of course – the Municipality of Casalecchio di Reno.
The conference closed on a negative note, however: three African teams (Gambia, DR Congo and Ghana) had once again been refused Italian visas in spite of coming from established local NGOs. The reasons given, such as a lack of embassy staff or a requirement to present the application six months in advance, appeared to be bordering on the illegal.
The party spirit of the World Cup is our way of tackling social emergencies about which we are all concerned,” was how Mattias Durchfeld summed up the essence of the Anti-Racist World Cup 2008.