The European Commission estimates that approximately 10-12 million Roma people live in Europe, of which six million are in the European Union, with many facing prejudice, discrimination and exclusion.
Promoting tolerance, tackling exclusion and empowering minority groups, including Roma people in Europe, has been one of the objectives of the action weeks periods.
Roma initiatives across the East
The majority of groups in countries such as the Republic of Montenegro, Macedonia, Slovakia and Hungary dedicated their action weeks activities to tackle hatred and violence towards Roma people.
Football camps and tournaments, lectures and workshops, street art activities and exhibitions have addressed the marginalisation of minority groups and paved the way for future action.
The Door Centre, an Albanian NGO launched a nationwide campaign under the slogan ‘Yes to Social Inclusion – No to Racism’. The group held a series of workshops and youth football tournaments in disadvantaged areas alongside with cultural events that promoted the Roma culture.
In England, the Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (GATE) held three fixtures in which young footballers from Gypsy United played against different community groups.
The Greek organisations Local Youth Council of Kos Island and the Fare partner Foul, as well as the Union of Bulgarian Journalists and the Portuguese Red Cross of Braga organised football tournaments and round-table discussions that explored the potential of sports for social change and inclusion.
In Moldova, the Centre Support and Protect the Rights and Interests of Indigenous Roma held a football tournament, involving four teams of Roma youth from settlements in Tiraspol, Bendery and Slobozeya; while the NGOs Vitality, AO Info-Terra and Fatima organised football tournaments between Roma people and migrant minorities from neighbouring countries.
‘Football a way of celebrating heritage’
Earlier this month, Hungarian Roma MEP, Livia Jaroka, underlined the told a conference in Strasbourg that, “I grew up in a Roma community where football was very strong presence. My father, my brothers and many others were passionate about it and saw it as an opportunity to positively celebrate our heritage.”
In the same meeting, Fare also pledged to continue working together with Roma groups to support empowerment through sport.