More than 2,600 Romanian children have taken part in an initiative focusing on the fight against racism and violence through movement, games and sport – and Romanian football has given its invaluable backing.
The event was developed and implemented by one of UEFA's social responsibility partners, the Terre des hommes (Tdh) foundation, as part of its MOVE project – run in conjunction with UEFA. It received support from both the Romanian Football Federation (FRF) and Romanian sports personalities, including former international Miodrag Belodedici, ambassador for this year's UEFA Europa League final in Bucharest.
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March had its basis in games children play in the schoolyard. "These games can be violent, based on competition, racism and exclusion – or, on the contrary, they can encourage children to be cooperative, friendly and inclusive," said Tdh Romania representative Joseph Aguettant.
"On this day, Terre des hommes brings together people who say no to exclusion – it invited 100 children with different ethnic origins and coming from disadvantaged social environments, to demonstrate that these games can be efficient in reducing racial discrimination."
Important names from Romanian sport, including footballers Belodedici, Dan Ionescu and Daniel Prodan and Olympic fencing champion Laura Badea, as well as actresses Doiniţa Oancea and Aylin Cadâr, lent their voices to the message that ethnicity is not a reason for exclusion, and the fact we are different is one of the most interesting aspects of our existence. The Policy Centre for Roma and Minorities helped to organise the event.
Belodedici said that as a sportsman he had felt discriminatory attitudes, and that involving children in sporting activities can be an effective way of changing behaviour and attitudes. "It is much easier to make yourself accepted through sport," he said. "The Romanian Football Federation supports the project and I think it is important to start from the bottom upwards, meaning from children."
FRF representative Adrian Pigulea said that although the federation was, for many, synonymous with the national team and its club sides participating in international competitions, it was also interested in developing "grassroots football". He said: "Sport has a crucial role in building healthy characters. It keeps you away from trouble and temptations."
"This year," Aguettant added, "we focus on the games that children play at school or on the streets. Whatever we as adults do, no matter how much we fund social programmes for integration, we can't change anything if children are not involved. Our message is: Let the children play together."
The MOVE project started in 2008 and operates in Romania, Moldova and Albania. It is concerned with children's psychosocial development through games and sport, based on the MGS intervention model (Movement, Games and Sport), and is implemented in collaboration with UEFA and local partners.
By bringing together children of different ethnic origins and getting them playing sport, MOVE seeks to develop their personal and social abilities. Besides members of the Tdh foundation, coaches and animators, the project also engages local authorities and schools. There are currently 28 communities from the Dolj region and ten schools from Bucharest taking part with a total of 400 trained animators.
Tdh protects children's rights and is active in 30 countries across the world. By its actions, the foundation tries to safeguard every child's rights, regardless of origin and background, according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
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