Discrimination can manifest itself in countless forms. For each of them, though, there is a way that football can help.
The second edition of the FIFA Diversity Award, in London, was a rich showcase of this inspiring power, as it gathered representatives from very diverse organisations from around the world, but with one strong element in common: an active voice to promote diversity and anti-discrimination values through football.
FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura awarded the trophy of the FIFA Diversity Award 2017 to Soccer Without Borders, an organisation using football as the key tool to build the confidence and assist with the integration of young refugees in places like the United States and Uganda.
The American-based institution was chosen ahead of second-placed Moving the Goalposts, an organisation that strives for the social inclusion of girls and young women in the coastal counties of Kilifi and Kwale, in Kenya. The selection was made by a jury comprising 11 prominent names from football and from the promotion of diversity in sport, including a representative of the winners of the maiden edition — Slum Soccer, from India.
“It is FIFA’s duty to promote diversity on the pitch, in the stands and in each area of society that is touched by the most popular sport in the world. The Diversity Award is part of this,” said Samoura. “It is simply fascinating to stand in front of people whose lives are permeated by this commitment, day in and day out. That is the purpose of this award: to say the right words and say them aloud. And, more importantly, to work together for them to become a reality.”
FIFA’s anti-discrimination stance is enshrined in its Statutes, and the FIFA Diversity Award is one of several concrete initiatives to live up to this pledge: from the adoption of a monitoring system for discriminatory behaviour in the stadiums to the publication of a Good Practice Guide to nurture the 211 member associations on how to tackle discrimination.
“I am happy to see FIFA taking these initiatives. Because we can talk a lot about inclusion, but this is just a word. Making it happen takes a lot of effort, sustained attention, desire and care. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, and it is truly an honour to be recognised by this,” said Ben Gucciardi, one of the founders of Soccer Without Border, echoing the thoughts of Moving the Goalposts founder Sarah Forde:
“Our organisation is far from the centres of power in Kenya, let alone globally. Being recognised by FIFA is something we would never dream of: we were just trying to get a few girls to play football and hoping that it would help with their social inclusion in a very poor and male-dominated area. Now we see how powerful football is to make this happen.”
The FIFA Diversity Award 2017 ceremony was presented by former English international Alex Scott and counted on the presence of FIFA Legend and former Nigerian star Emmanuel Amunike. As this year’s winner, Soccer Without Borders is invited to form the jury of the 2018 edition.