Using sport to repel discrimination against the Roma people in Europe

3 May 2018


In the run up to the 2018 #InternationalRomaDay, Fare network, the Policy Centre for Roma and Minorities and a number of other organisation held a round-table discussion on Roma inclusion through Sport in Bucharest, Romania.

The gathering anchored by Roma NGOs and experts on social inclusion from 18 countries was billed as a critical move in the efforts to push back exclusions faced by the Roma people, notes a statement issued by the Fare network, an organisation largely known for working with FIFA to tackle discrimination in the game of football.

Initiatives like these, which use sport to fight against social exclusion, are gaining momentum in Europe and across the globe. Examples include Amnesty International’s ‘Football Welcomes’ initiative that celebrates the contribution of refugee players in the development of the beautiful game. The initiative fits into a wider campaign to push back xenophobia and in particular hate against immigrants that are sorting refugee in the West. Another example is a South African based initiative driven by Voice of Africa for Change which uses sport to fight against xenophobia.

Steven Pienaar: Sport helps unite people and break down barriers.

The round om Roma table fed into the  #InternationalRomaDay, which has been celebrated on the 8th of April 8 since initiation in 1990. It stands “to combat the exclusion of Roma people by raising public awareness of the issues they face and at the same time celebrating the culture of Europe’s largest ethnic minority,” notes the Fare statement.

It added that “Understanding the social exclusion chain that affects Roma communities – a picture of individual vulnerabilities, common exclusion drivers and national and international policy shortcomings – is important to address the deprivations the community faces in all areas of life including education, employment, housing and health care.

“Fare believes that sport can be used to empower Roma young people through participation, supporting education and creating training opportunities, to overcome the vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion.”

The round-table discussion drew on candidates expertise, through group discussions and workshops and explored how sport can be used as a tool for the development of the communities of Roma people.

Raluca Negulescu of the Policy Centre and the Chair of the Fare board said “Sport can play an important role for social cohesion offering opportunities for exchanges between people of different backgrounds and cultures. At the same time, it strengthens self-worth and achievement, community pride and health awareness.”

“Participants looked at practical ideas to consider sport as methodology to work with the Roma and to encourage local authorities to adopt it, and develop best practice.”

The statement also notes that the Policy Centre has been using football and arts to support Roma children in education, through mentorship and by developing skills for many years.

The gathering is said to have agreed on four action points. These are:

  • To create an advocacy group on the topic
  • Commission a report through Fare that will highlight successful Roma sport initiatives and document methodologies
  • Engage with the European Union (EU) to develop and support action
  • Explore partnerships to support effective programmes at grassroots level

The groups taking part in the roundtable included:

Federation of Roma Associations in Catalonia, Spain

INEX-SDA, Czech Republic

National Roma centrum, Macedonia

Romano ButiQ, Romania

Association “New Woman”, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Roma Education Fund, Romania

Association Footura, Bulgaria

FK. Napredok65, Macedonia


NGO Kulsport, Montenegro

League of Tolerance, Ukraine

SEGAS (Hellenic Athletics Federation), Greece

LA GOĎAHA (S ROZUMEM), Czech Republic

The Door, Albania

Řekni rasismu ne – Say no to racism, Czech Republic

‘TRAIN’ Traveller & Romani Advice & Information Network, United Kingdom

Radovi U Toku, Serbia

Center for Youth Integration, Serbia

Association for protection of children and young Roma – Progress, Macedonia

Association of Roma Hope, Serbia

Youth resource center Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Red Deporte, Spain

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