Let refugees play football say Italian campaigners20 December 2011

An Italian grassroots club has voiced its frustration at FIFA rules after being stopped from registering a Ghanaian teenager.

Nuova Oregina of Genova wanted to register the 14-year-old refugee who has begun the process of being integrated into Italian life since playing football.

Nuova Oregina were denied their request to register the youngster by the football authorities because of FIFA regulations concerning status and transfers of player from outside the EU.

According to the rules, registration of a foreign minor is only allowed if the youngster arrives to an EU country with his parents and for reasons other than football. The ruling is in place to combat the trade and trafficking of young players.

But according to Nuova Oregina president Salvatore Gemelli, sport is a means of social integration and the youngster has begun making new friends which he would not have done without football.

“How do you explain to him that it would be convenient for him to be an orphan, because with his parents in Ghana he cannot play in Italy?” questioned Gemelli.

Italy's Sport for All Association, the UISP, have raised awareness of the story, expressing their concerns that youngsters who had found a purpose in life through sport were being denied the chance to integrate and feel part of their communities.

“We’re dismayed with this episode,” said Filippo Fossati, UISP national president.

“When a young guy is deprived of his right to play and to feel part of a team, something is wrong. There is a hierarchy of legal sources, also international, that should always be respected: the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, approved by the UN Assembly in 1959 and upgraded in 1989, says that the minor’s interest should prevail on all the rest.

“It’s clear that FIFA is doing an injustice, also if based on a correct principle: to avoid the minors' exploitation in football. This story, and many others, is absurd and should be faced finding a new way. We propose to create a table between FIFA, Ficg and Unar, the National Office for Racial Anti-discrimination created by the Minister for Equal Opportunities. It’s time to create a measure to safeguard foreign minors, who can often find in sport a means of integration and socialising.”