Italy's Newest Soccer Team Is Made Up Entirely of Refugees
The team was formed as a response to racism.
What started as a response to exclusion and racism has now transformed into a brotherly bond among Italy’s first-ever all-refugee soccer team.
The team is part of the Liberi Nantes soccer club, which was founded ten years ago as a response to racism in the Italian soccer world by founders Guido Montana and Aniello Luciano. The league welcomes all refugees and asylum seekers and has other members as well.
The goal of the Liberi Nantes league is the opposite of the sinister roots that sparked the need for an inclusive sports club. Its mission is to allow refugees and asylum seekers to engage with the new country they’ve come to and create new connections with those who’ve had similar experiences.
Players in the Liberi Nantes club have escaped horrors ranging from war to poverty, discrimination, and life-threatening circumstances after fleeing their home countries.
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Fortunately, the soccer club allows them to finally have a joyful place of acceptance to build a new start with others. It also provides a space to pray as well as aa physical respite from the psychological trauma many of them have endured in their journeys.
The name of the soccer club translates to “free swimming” which symbolizes every person’s right to travel freely, which as we see borders and nations close is more important than ever.
The club also has a flag designed with the same colors as the United Nations that waves in the center of Rome, close to hundreds of refugee help centers.
Members of Liberi Nantes can play in a competitive league with scheduled games or play casual games of pick-up soccer, as well as joining in other organized events like hiking trips, Italian lessons, and the occasional game of rugby for team players.
Read More: This Is the Flag of the Refugee Olympic Team
A majority (42%) of refugees fleeing to Europe are young men. In Italy, the percentage of male refugees age 18 to34 is estimated to be as high as 74% according to Pew research. Organizations that welcome refugees and help support their transition to new cultures and countries are vital for successful integration.
Sports, which have long been about comradery, strength, and learning to trust others, have a unique and powerful way to bring people together rather than divide them That is the definition of true sportsmanship.
As Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona soccer star, reminds us, “There are more important things than winning or losing a game.”