Copa América host highlights the region’s cultural diversity during the tournament23 June 2015

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Copa América is the main international football tournament for South American national teams and the oldest international continental football competition. In 2015, Mexico and Jamaica joined the 10 CONMEBOL countries as guest teams.

Ahead of the tournament the Chilean National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) and Players’ Union (Sirup) called on supporters to respect neighbouring countries and fans attending the cup.

“We need to be aware of what unites us, that we are all humans and that this multicultural event, Copa América, is an opportunity to enrich ourselves as country” read a joint press release.

The two organisations also stressed they will be watching closely the matches and monitoring discriminatory incidents at all levels of the game.

Recalling the November 2014 incidents that subjected the Venezuelan international Emilio Rentería to racist chants at Chilean premier league matches, INDH director Lorena Fríes said: “We do not want to see a repetition of what happened to Rentería, neither to see fans from other countries being the target of attacks for celebrating their team’s victories in Chile.”

In 2014, a series of high profile racist incidents in Central and South American football, including BrazilChileMexico and Peru, raised concerns on how the problem of discrimination in football is being addressed in the region.

New anti-racism and violence law
Days before the tournament kick-off the Chilean government announced tougher sanctions against violence and racism at football matches. The new law increased fines and jail sentences for those who break it and punishes violence during training sessions, the movement or transportation of fans, and at celebrations in public places, as well as racism, xenophobia and discrimination in general.

“We want to make sure that fans and families can enjoy the game safely and in pleasant conditions,” said Interior Minister Jorge Burgos.

Green card for diversity
At the opening match between Chile and Ecuador, on 11 June, 46 thousand fans held up a green card and remained silent during the singing of the national anthems as a sign of respect to the opposing nation.

The initiative was part of the UNICEF and Fundación Fútbol Más campaign “América nos une. No hagas tú la diferencia” (in English “America unites us. Don’t be the odd one out.”) which is looking to address discrimination within the region and promote a cultural interchange during the tournament.

Guillermo Rolando, director of Fundación Fútbol Más, said: “Fútbol Más has been working across several neighbourhoods of Chile and other Latin American countries to promote and award positive values in and outside the stands.

“What we saw at the National Stadium, was an amplified result of that work.”

The green cards feature a message of the Chile national team captain Claudio Bravo that reads: “America is the mirror of all its beautiful cultures. Let’s value the positive things our continent has and as a sign of respect let’s hold up this card during the anthem of our brother countries.”

The initiative is also looking to prevent booing chants during national anthems.

The third aim of the campaign is to promote the social inclusion of migrants in Central and South America, children and the youth in particular.

A 2013 survey revealed that 354.581 immigrants live in Chile, of these 59.266 are aged between 0 and 17 years old. 7,2% of the migrant population lives in extreme poverty and 25,2% in multidimensional poverty.

“Football is a wonderful activity, that unites us, gives us motivation and that also provides great examples. It is an activity for the youth and for adults, men and women, that can be experienced in and outside the stands. In this sense, the Copa América is a great medium to further the values of inclusion across the entire continent.” Rolando explained.

Chile to host first Copa América of indigenous peoples
The tournament will come to an end on 04 July, but later on the month Chile will also host the first Copa América of indigenous peoples.

At the event’s group stage draw, Foreign Affairs minister of Chile Heraldo Muñoz highlighted the importance of hosting the cup: “First is our multicultural character. We are indigenous and diverse and we should promote that in the best possible way. In second place, the importance of promoting sport for public health and the practice of sport for all”.

The tournament will be the first major event to bring together indigenous communities and teams from across the continent to showcase and value cultural differences and the traditions of each through sport.