From FIRE to FIRE+: advocating for football as a tool for social inclusion
Migration flows to the European continent have provoked heated debate for several years. While for some people migration is perceived as a problem, or even a threat, it is high time we reversed the trend: migration is a “natural” phenomenon, human beings have always moved and will continue to do so in the future. The causes of these movements are numerous but the possibilities of social inclusion of these new arrivals remain a major challenge.
The FIRE project (2019-2021) led by Sport and Citizenship gave us an insight into the social investment of amateur football in the reception and inclusion of asylum seekers and refugees. Many of these initiatives remained isolated. Although they had a strong impact at local level, their initiators were still facing many difficulties in making their voices heard.
The FIRE project team concluded that it was essential to continue to network the different actors in the field of “Football for Refugees”, to make the voices on the ground heard and to continue to build the capacity of amateur football in this field. From these conclusions, the FIRE+ project was born with the ambition to deepen the work started, again with the support of the EU. The FIRE+ project was launched in January 2021. During the two and a half years of implementation, FIRE+ has sought to better recognise the needs and different realities of “Football for Refugees”. These realities are presented in our major survey “Football and Refugee Inclusion – From Assumptions to Empirical Evidence”. Findings are the basis for our strong advocacy in favour of a better recognition of the use of football as a tool for social inclusion and to highlight the needs in this area.
On the footballing side, FIRE + has promoted intercultural openness in football bodies during its 4 national conferences. Local organisations and clubs that are pioneers in the implementation of “Football For Refugees” have received our support. Finally, the FIRE MOOC was complemented by 3 innovative modules focusing on different target groups: the inclusion of unaccompanied foreign minors; the inclusion of female participants; and the empowerment of refugees through taking up volunteering roles in football clubs.