Romania: a football tournament to meet and exchange
by Razvan Samoila, Executive Director
ARCA is a Romanian NGO which aims to defend and promote fundamental human rights. In the framework of the FIRE project, it has approached the Romanian Football Federation to build a pilot project of inclusion through football for the benefit of migrants and refugees.
ARCA – The Romanian Forum for Refugees and Migrants is a Romanian NGO founded in 1998 with the purpose to defend and promote fundamental human rights, especially for refugees, people who have obtained subsidiary protection and other categories of migrants, and to facilitate their integration in Romania. Our organization supports beneficiaries through counseling (legal, social, professional) and assistance to gain self-sufficiency and to become fully active participants of society. Educational activities (Romanian/English language classes) and cultural accommodation activities have been developed. Furthermore, ARCA has been focused on job related services for migrants, mediation with employers and advocacy activities to encourage employment of migrants in Romania.
In 2019, ARCA, in partnership with the Romanian Football Federation (FRF), had implemented a pilot project called “IncludingAll Championship”, as part of the FIRE Project. Celebrating diversity and non-discrimination through sports was a premiere for our NGO. The FIRE project activities revolved also around other important values such as teamwork, fair play, active participation and people skills development in a multicultural environment.
The event was organized on 24th of October within a sports complex in Bucharest and gathered 5 teams composed by young refugees, asylum seekers and migrants outside EU (Iran, Yemen, Sudan) and employees of companies willing to employ foreigners and who included in their teams migrants from the European countries (Poland and Portugal). Half a day the teams enjoyed 11 football games, while in the stands we had NGOs members, FRF representatives and a paramedic. Social media tools made the event reachable by our online community.
As partners, the FRF offered support in organizing the event, ensuring visibility and offering Romanian Football flags and badges as honorary awards. Decathlon Romania sponsored part of the sports equipment for the football games and joined the tournament with teams alongside other companies.
During the sports event, participants had the chance to experience the common ground of any human connection: humanity as a reality beyond nationalities, culture, religion or political views.
The central positioning of asylum seekers and refugees in the action had a positive impact on their self-esteem, and the presence of Romanians and other foreign nationals allowed them to develop social skills, to communicate and collaborate and to discover the benefits of sports activities, while the involvement of companies (with team players; equipments) opened new possibilities for future collaboration on integrating migrants on various levels such as social, cultural, but also professional.