Football has a crucial role to play as a unifying force, and the Streetkick programme at UEFA EURO 2012 is a perfect example of how people can join together to play the beautiful game. Dutch legend Ruud Gullit – a hero to fans worldwide – was given a first-hand view of Streetkick's appeal when the programme kicked off at the Warsaw fan camp.
Streetkick is one of the key events of the Respect Diversity project organised by UEFA and its partner in the campaign against racism, FARE. It is a unique activity in which supporters from different countries can participate. At the launch, Streetkick showed immediately that it is a real football festival where local fans will be able to showcase their football skills together with supporters from other nations.
Streetkick is a mobile, inflatable mini-football pitch that can be packed into a relatively small trailer and moved from one location to another. This revolutionary mobile football game aims to take football to the masses.
"Streetkick started about ten years ago," explained Simon Hyacinth, coordinator of the Football Unites organisation. "During UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal, we tried to bring fans together at a major tournament for the first time. We encourage them to interact, to make new friends and have fun together. It worked quite well, so since then, we have been to the 2006 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, and now we are doing it again here. We inspire fans to play together, to spend free time in a positive way, and, finally, we show positive aspects of diversity."
There is no place for racism and intolerance in football, and UEFA and FARE have been working together for ten years to transmit this key message. "I've been to Poland many times and I have very positive impressions," said Gullit, a Respect Diversity ambassador. "I know that [Poland] has done much to eliminate racist behaviour from stadiums. Therefore, I appeal directly to fans: have fun, and let the football be the only winner.”
"Football is a great game and a powerful weapon, capable of uniting people of different skin colours – we need to use it in a positive way," added Paul Elliott, the former Chelsea FC defender who was also present.
Polish football was represented by one of its legends, former striker Dariusz Dziekanowski, who welcomed the presence of an old friend and opponent. "Ruud Gullit is well-known around the world and it's good that he's involved in such projects as Streetkick. Thanks to people like him there is a chance that stadiums will resemble a great theatre, so we can all watch [football] as a show in a positive way. We do not want fans insulting anyone who has a different colour of skin, a different religion, and so on."
"It has been a very good start to our Streetkick campaign. It's important for us to have support from famous international players," said Hyacinth. "We encourage people from different countries to play, not against, but with each other. So we are mixing squads, and Polish fans can play with fans from another country in one team. It helps to create a positive relationship between people from different parts of Europe."
"We should speak as much as we can about the fight against racism, because bad conduct is caused by ignorance," said Dziekanowski. "Football is for all. Football unites people rather than dividing them."
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