The never ending story -racism and stupidity

25 Sep

Last night the football game Steaua Bucharest – Rapid was once again full of racist incidents. Thousands chanted their hate against Roma. The lack of reaction of Romanian authorities remains a proof of both racism and stupidity. Today OSCE published in their latest booklet an article I wrote months ago…

For those ready to say that this is something normal with the football fans … there was a banner which thanked to Eugen Grigore. He is a serial killer that in the 1970s killed 24 Roma.

Kids, the ghetto and the magic of sports

Twice European Championship league winner Miodrag Belodedici and our children

 As a child I did lots of sports. I played football and basketball in some of the best teams in Craiova a town in the south of Romania I ran 800 meters and I was a decent swimmer and tennis player. For the poor Roma child I was, the state rations of sometimes-fresh meat, fruit and vegetables received by youngster playing sports was an extremely strong incentive during the Communist times when good food was a luxury. Hot showers, equipment as well as warm gyms and training camps were some other things I thought to be almost magical, especially during the cold winters or summer holidays.

But what I liked the most was that in my teams I never felt I was the stinky Gypsy most of the people around me said I was. I was just a good player and my teammates treated me with friendship and respect. Some of my stronger friendships created then remain strong after three decades. I learned most things I know about hard work, discipline, competitiveness, ambition and respect from sports. I believe my personal success was possible because of what I learned playing sports.

No wonder I focused on sports when I started working with ghetto children in Bucharest. Drugs, violence, prostitution and petty criminality infest the ghetto. Everybody, but everybody I talked with told me either that I was crazy to try to work there or that I had no chance whatsoever to have any positive impact. I asked a friend from the European football governing body UEFA to give me some T-shirts and I told the children in the ghetto that I was starting a UEFA-sponsored team. My colleagues and I at the Policy Centre organized street-dance, basketball and volleyball classes. The children got hooked. No drugs, no violence – just sports was our motto.

It is less than two years since we started working in the ghetto and we have some great results. Our children (around two hundred) stay in school – their attendance has improved dramatically. We have a national vice-champion in street-dance and very good football and street dance teams. None of our children abuses drugs. Our campaign against violence and racism is visible on stadiums throughout Romania. Banners with No Racism No Violence are nowadays compulsory for all first league teams.

Violence and racism in and around football stadiums are still a huge problem. The last game of the Romanian season at the end of May 2012 saw two teams from Bucharest, Rapid and Dinamo, playing for the Romanian Cup. I took my son to the game. At one point over 10,000 people in the stadium started to chant against the Rapid team – perceived in Romania as a team of Gypsies. “We’ve always hated the gypsies, f— you Rapid,” reverberated around the stadium. My child, a 10-year-old who loves sports, froze and started crying. He asked me if we were going to be killed. I tried to calm him down and I yelled at the people that were chanting around me. Some of them seemed thunderstruck and deeply ashamed. My child doesn’t want to watch football anymore. Words can kill not just innocence and love, they can kill people. Racism has been the motive for abject killings – some of those crimes have had sports people as victims.

Some of the most famous football, basketball and volleyball players in Romania have come to the ghetto and played with or trained the children we work with. The Romanian Football Federation(FRF) has done some positive things in the last years trying to stop racism and violence. We run together with the FRF twice a year tournaments against racism and violence for children and we play exhibition games with famous journalists and personalities promoting same type of messages.  UEFA has in the past years sent a very strong message against racism and violence in the stadiums. Stronger than any European government. UEFA’s president is the only visible European leading figure who has dared to say openly and bluntly that anti-Gypsyism is a problem that needs to be fought seriously.

I still believe sports are magic. But I have learned that magic is simply not enough to stop violence and racism. For that we need serious and constant campaigning, education and prevention. We need governments and inter-governmental institutions to step in and do what some sports bodies have already been doing for years. Recognizing that there is racism and violence in our societies and in sports is important, but only a first step. What we need most now is to fight against them, openly and efficiently. We all need to feel that we are playing in the same team.

Valeriu Nicolae is a Romanian Roma. He is the president and founder of the Policy Center for Roma and Minorities in Bucharest. The Centre won the 2012 UNICEF Sport for Education Beyond Sport Award for its work as well as a prize for Exceptional Contribution to the Romanian Civil Society at the 2012  Romanian Civil Gala   More information can be found at http://www.policycenter.eu.

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6 Responses to “The never ending story -racism and stupidity”

  1. Charles Hubaker September 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    If there were one Bulgarian to oppose the stigmatization and stupidity, that would be Julia Kristeva.

  2. marian October 5, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    cu tot respectul, dar nu aveti dreptate, si va ofer 2 motive pertinente:
    1. aproximativ 40 de procente din galeria Stelei sunt tigani
    2. scandarile respective nu au legatura cu discriminarea de orice natura. se refera strict la porecla lor. la fel cum dinamovistii sunt porecliti javre iar stelistii aurolaci.
    este si jenant sa promovezi asa ceva cand ei in comuitatea lor se descriu ca si TIGANI. denumirea de rromi nu se potriveste deloc. ca o comparatie ar trebui sa va uitati mai cu atentie la indienii din SUA.

    • valeriucnicolae October 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

      Marian

      Multumesc ca ai citit articolul. Eu sunt rom. La fel este si copilul meu care a fost convins ca va fi omorat de cei care urlau in jurul nostru la meci – moarte la tigani.A fi sau a fi perceput ca rom nu exclude ca nu poti fi rasist impotriva romilor, cretin sau orice altceva. Desigur poti sa justifici orice inclusiv ca scandarile de la meci nu sunt rasiste. Argumentul nu este insa logic – teoria asimetriei arata ca daca eu gasesc un singur rasist in cei peste 20.000 care urlau pe stadion impotriva tiganilor atunci tot argumentul tau cade.

      PS. Nu inteleg partea de indieni.

    • Critic October 8, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

      Teletexte stimabile. Daca 40 de procente din suporterii stelei sunt tigani, ar trebui intrebati ei ce simt cand se scandeaza impotriva tiganilor? Din pacate, in ultimul timp, suporterii se iau dupa cel mai prost exemplu, europarlamentarul Becali. Asta uraste desantat bozgorii, tiganii, negrii s.a.m.d. Oare de ce suporterii Stelei se coboara la nivelul acestuia? Trebuie ca din atatia fani, macar unii sa fie si inteligenti…

    • theodora February 15, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

      am asistat la multe polemici pe tema numelui. nu sunt de etnie roma, dar am citit cate ceva pe tema asta. Exista multe studii academice -etnologice si istorice- in care se demonstreaza ca “rom” este termenul corect, chiar daca pe majoritatea ii irita ca se invecineaza “prea mult” cu termenul de “roman”. daca ei intre ei isi mai spun unul altuia “tigan”, atunci uitati-va tot la un exemplu din SUA unde afro-americanii isi mai spun unul altuia “nigger”.
      despre ce s-a intamplat la meci…ii dau dreptate dlui valeriu nicolae. daca ati fi fost in locul lui, ati fi fost de alta parere.

      eu nu mai stau in romania de vreo 10 ani, pentru ca am tot umblat pe la studii, dar am parte de acelasi tratament rasist de foarte multe ori, doar pentru ca vin din romania… ba de multe ori mi se spune “tu esti un om educat si te respectam, dar CEILALTI romani sunt hoti si prostituate”.

  3. Diana June 30, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    Nu suntem cu nmic mai buni ca ii bagam pe toti in aceeasi oala. In cazul cu cei la care s-a strigat ca trebuie omorati, de ce sa le strigi ceva de genul, cand nu ai vazut concret ca EI insisi au comis un delict.

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