Andrea Agnelli underlined Juventus’ commitment to tackling the issues of racism and social exclusion during this morning’s presentation of the club’s pioneering charity projects at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
Chosen by an independent judging panel as one of ten social initiatives across five continents to be presented at the auspicious ‘Education, Sport and Cultural Diversity – new ways to promote human rights around the world’ event, the club’s successful ‘Kick Out Racism’ and ‘Play With Me’ projects today received deserved international recognition in the French capital.
Speaking in front of a 1000-strong audience of 18 to 35 year olds, the Bianconeri president began by discussing the driving force behind the club’s decision to roll out a dynamic programme of schemes geared towards aiding the community, starting with ‘Kick Out Racism’.
Launched back in 2009, the initiative offers study grants to aid groups of 18 to 25 year olds from Italy and abroad, volunteer ONLUS (non-profit) associations in Piedmont and upper secondary institutions in setting up pro-integration, anti-racism projects.
Agnelli said: “I am convinced that Italy, for many years a land of emigrants, does not suffer from all-out racism. However, the country is experiencing the phenomenon of mass immigration for the first time in its history and there certain are occasions and places, stadia being one of these, where this concept is not fully understood. Juventus has felt the need to facilitate this understanding.”
The second project, Play With Me, provides children who are at risk of social marginalisation with the chance to join Juventus academies.
The opportunity to play football and participate in team sports are aspects that Agnelli regards as crucial in the overall development and integration of youngsters.
And with an ever-changing social landscape putting such “happiness” at risk, he believes it is time to reverse the trend by bringing football back into the everyday lives of children.
He continued: “For many years, football was accessible to all children. Then our societies became more complicated; parents started demanding higher educational and environmental standards for their children. Soccer schools were established, offering real lessons. However, these are accessible only to those who can afford to pay the annual fee.
“The recession, unemployment, and increasing immigration did the rest: for some years now, football and happiness are no longer accessible to everyone. In short, football, a sport that has always been a great model of integration and inclusion, was running the risk of losing these features. Play With Me, now in its second year, has become a true example of integration and inclusion: two values which tie in perfectly with UNESCO’s aims.”
A key force behind these two projects is the tireless collaboration of Turin’s UNESCO Center, who were represented in Paris this afternoon by Maria Paolo Azzario Chiesa.
Also adding weight to the overall presentation was a group of 50 youngsters, proudly wearing t-shirts bearing the relevant slogans, who have put painstaking time and energy into establishing effective pro-integration campaigns.
Following a video message from Bianconeri midfielder Paul Pogba, Agnelli concluded by encouraging his counterparts in world football to follow the lead set by NGO UNESCO initiatives in combatting all forms of social prejudice.
He added: “I think NGO UNESCO projects should serve as an inspiration for leaders of football teams to ensure we challenge racism and discrimination in every possible way.”