On November 6, 2008 a group of young individuals presented strategies to the European Parliament on how sports can be used to combat racism. Can racism be fought on athletic fields and in stadiums across the world? Is that enough to counter act the cultural divides and preconceived notions?
Well, these young adults believe it is possible. As representatives of the project “Youth Voices against Racism”, an initiative of UNESCO, FC Barcelona and the European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR), in partnership with the European Parliament, these impassions young adults visited the Parliament in Brussels and presented a document containing 10 recommendations to counteract racism in and through sports. These five young representatives of three European cities (Botkyrka, Erlangen, Nuremberg) sure believe that sports can combat racism as they presented a set of recommendations for preventing and responding to racist behavior in amateur and professional sports.
These representatives were speaking on behalf of young people between the ages of 15 and 18 who were consulted to help prepare the recommendations for parliament. Youth Voices against Racism is a project that was launched by UNESCO, Football Club Barcelona and ECCAR in partnership with the European Parliament. The project, directed by the young participants themselves, was launched only a little under a year ago in the spring of 2008. It was implemented by ECCAR and currently comprises 82 cities in 17 countries. To help formulate their recommendations the group worked with coalition cities to set up meetings with young people in schools, sports clubs and youth councils, as well as via local media and online forums, to elicit their ideas for ways to promote tolerance, mutual respect and solidarity through sport.
As Emine Bozkurt, the Dutch member of the European Parliament who initiated the influential European resolution to tackle racism in football noted, “Sport is a mirror of society, with all of its shortcomings. But let us not forget that, above all, sport offers great possibilities for social inclusion”.
Young people have a say in the struggle against racism and discrimination and Youth Voices against Racism is doing their part in providing youth an avenue for their voice, involvement, and effort to combat racism.