The Italian press conference to launch the 2006 Mondiali Antirazzisti (Anti-Racist World Cup) took place in Bologna today. This year will see some significant changes with regard to the programme and the participation of foreign teams.
The Mondiali is a tournament that “relies strongly on the involvement of Italian groups”, said Carlo Balestri, spokesperson for the 'Progetto Ultra' fan project. “These groups are the protagonists in the cultural events that are intended to give the tournament more depth. As well as football and basketball competitions, evening concerts and the long-established 'Anti-Racist Square', we would like to create more space for book presentations, for example, theatre productions, the UISP (Unione Italiana Sport Per Tutti = a grass-roots Italian sports organisation) marquee with discussions on a wide range of subjects, a cinema for the showing of documentaries and for web radio (Asterisco Radio).”
There was a veritable flood of applications from groups wishing to attend the 12th Mondiali. A total of 204 teams will contest the football tournament, with as many as 270 wanting to take part. There will also be a basketball tournament with 32 teams and, for the first time, a volleyball tournament, which a dozen teams have already entered.
“Music, sport and culture serve as a means for people to get to know each other and a tool for breaking down discriminatory barriers”, adds Fabio Dolci of the organisation Istoreco, “barriers that make it so easy for people to have a negative view of each other. The Mondiali first took place in Montefiorino ten years ago with eight teams and 80 participants and was based on an idea by Progetto Ultra and Istoreco. Over the years the number of people attending has increased dramatically. This year we even had applications from Texas, Palestine and Ukraine.”
UISP will have a strong presence and will be organising a marquee, for example, in which various activities will take place. Filippo Fossati, national UISP chairman said: “For UISP the Mondiali has now become one of the most important events of all because in Italy there is hardly an event to match it in terms of intensity and content. We will be involved with a number of initiatives, ranging from a training course on international cooperation to the organisation of discussions on 'mental discomfort' and sport, for example.
We also wish to look at the 'calciopoli' affair (this is how the current crisis of credibility in Italian football is being referred to in Italy with reference to the 'tangentopoli' corruption scandal in the 1990s) to find a way out of the problem. A number of guests will be taking part, including undersecretary of sport Giovanni Lolli, to whom we will be presenting proposals for a reorganisation of the system, such as the proposal to create a kind of accreditation procedure for clubs that operate as companies: only those clubs should be given a licence that pursue activities with a social character.”
This proposal originated a month ago at a meeting organised by Progetto Ultra under the heading “The values of sport” that was attended by William Galliard of UEFA. The organisers took the opportunity to emphasise the importance of a radical reform of sport. As a starting point there must be a return to positive values. In addition, an attempt must be made to do away with the insanities in this world (especially TV rights, doping, betting scandal.)
And it was precisely the consideration how the Mondiali could become an experimental forum for experiences and innovative solutions that this year led to the introduction of new initiatives such as the football break. The various tournaments will be halted on Friday afternoon to allow time for workshops on graffiti, choreographies and basketball, football and cricket techniques to take place.
Carlo Balestri said: “At the end of each tournament we analyse the event and ask everyone who attended to make new suggestions, express criticism and help us find solutions. We are improving all the time and are not simply content to stick with a cliché that has been successful once. In our view this is the key to success. This is also why we always try to involve the participants in the organisation of the event. The workshops and the various events that take a more in-depth look into the themes on offer are run by a variety of groups and participants who place their creativity at our disposal.”
Take the cooperation with D.E-R (Documentary makers of Emilia Romagna) and Doc/it (Italian documentary makers), for example. Enza Negroni of D.E-R explains: “I made the documentary on the Mondiali last year. It became clear to me just how interesting an event it is, especially from a documentary point of view. This led to the idea of creating some space for a cinema where we explain issues using pictures. We will organise a film festival where we will show footage taken by the groups themselves on their experiences in the stadium or their experiences with the associations or the Mondiali. During the football break on Friday afternoon we will run a workshop on how to make short films and documentaries to provide those who are interested in the subject with additional tips and opportunities for continuing their work or revisiting it.”
Lorenzo Burlando of Doc/It said: “When we received the proposal from D.E-R to work with them on this initiative, we began searching the Italian archive and found a lot of footage on the subject of football and sport in general. Much of the material starts with experiences in sport and goes on to take a broader look at issues in society. At the Mondiali we will be running a video show where we will present the footage we have selected, which, unfortunately, is largely unknown. All the selected videos come with subtitles, allowing them to be seen and understood by the majority of those in attendance.”
Besides the cinema, the radio station run by Asterisco Radio is an additional basic means of communication that can be used to convey the values intrinsic to the tournament.
Faustin Afakack said: “Asterisco was born three years ago to meet the needs of many foreigners living in Italy, to help them become protagonists in the communications process rather than simply passive listeners. The media often present a distorted picture of the world of immigrants instead of broadcasting news that could be of help to them. For the last year we have been broadcasting music from around the world, reports and news on the web (www.asteriscoradio.com) 24 hours a day in an attempt to deliver information from a different perspective. As well as running the Fusion Bar during the Mondiali we will be playing international music, staging a workshop on multicultural communications and reporting from the Mondiali to allow those who can't attend in person to share in the experience.”
Another key experience will be the opportunity to get to know Asian culture through the medium of one of its favourite sports, cricket. In association with FC Pordenone the Assata Shakur sports club from Ancona will hold a workshop on the rules and the game of cricket and on Sunday morning they will stage a show tournament along with the Pakistani and Bengali communities in the Reggio Emilia region.
Alessio Abraham said: “The Mondiali has brought us much more attention. As the 'Ultras Ancona' we have taken part in the Mondiali since day one. Thanks to our experience of attending the Mondiali we decided to get involved in our community rather than just in the stadium. This led to the formation of the Assata Shakur sports club, for example, which has been organising an anti-racism tournament in Ancona for the last five years now, arranged the building of a public gymnasium and, in association with the local branch of UISP, will ensure that from next year exercise courses for children will take place.
We had been accompanied to the Mondiali by a group of Bangladeshis who we 'forced' to play football to a certain extent until such time as they were able to field a cricket team. There were none in the region, so we made the first move and set up 'Banglancona' (a sports club made up of Bangladeshi and Pakistani youth), which we registered for the Italian Serie B this year. Even though the results on the pitch aren't that brilliant, the nice thing is that there is now a group of Senegalese, Moroccans and lots of Italians in addition to the Bangladeshis who follow us as a single fan group.”
Explaining what the Mondiali is about in just one hour is difficult, as all the protagonists emphasised. Because as well as the programme, the events, the music and the sport there is also an emotional component in the form of a handshake, the attempt to make yourself understood in different languages, the exchange of material, and the simple pleasure of being in contact with others for five days without having to fear discrimination on account of your views, colour of skin, religious conviction or anything else.