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Players past and present have gathered in Rome to discuss the use of football as an educational tool in society and lend their support to the UEFA Respect Diversity conference.
Four-time UEFA Champions League winner Clarence Seedorf joined AS Roma's Urby Emanuelson, former Ghanaian international Anthony Baffoe and UEFA chief refereeing officer Pierluigi Collina for a panel to discuss the future challenges facing football and society in promoting diversity, with the support of French women's international Laura Georges, who submitted a video message.
"Football is a global phenomenon and we are key players in this fantastic game," said Seedorf in an address to delegates. "We need to have a positive campaign with positive messages and as an objective, to look for direct, short-term intervention as well as a long-term plan. I've been playing football for 23 years and with more than 30 nationalities; that has been a pleasure. That is one message we need to get across, because the more we tell the kids about the positive things, the better our future will be.
"Education is the key solution for change, for peace and for help in the fight against racism and discrimination in general. It's fantastic that UEFA is creating these great conferences because it's about creating awareness; it's a great platform. And that's what we need to do: to speak about it and, through these conferences, find a better path than we have today. Globalisation has changed the world and football is the perfect instrument to set an example and to help adapt to this new world."
Rudi Garcia, the coach of Roma, who was also attending the conference, added: "UEFA always fought for integration. The values and the power of football mean that it is accessible to everyone regardless of skin colour, religion, the customs of a player. What is important is whether he is a good player or not and that's a great lesson in terms of integration into our actual society. Players and coaches have to be role models in terms of behaviour."
The final day of the two-day conference started with a series of workshops to debate future strategy in education and the improvement of diversity in football. One examined the balance between education and the need to implement sanctions, and there were also workshops on homophobia, southern Europe, the action plans of national associations, ethnic minorities and the progression from discrimination to diversity.
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