Working together to combat racism in Maltese football

When issuing licenses for teams to participate in European competitions, the Malta Football Association must ensure that football clubs comply with a number of standards issued by the Union of European Football Association (UEFA). One of these requirements is that clubs actively combat racism. David Abulafia, an English historian, refers to the Mediterranean as “probably the most vigorous place of interaction between different societies on the face of this planet” which highlights the importance of such initiatives.  

A 2017 study conducted by Johann Caruana questioned whether footballers experience racism in Malta. He found that “Malta is another Mediterranean country in which football racism is present”. He interviewed ten athletes, nine of whom confirmed this reality. One of the respondents claimed that racism in Maltese football is subtle and labelled it, “not a nice nothing”, while other respondents described it as being, “something disturbing”.

On 6 April Malta FA teamed up with us to conduct a session discussing racism in football with local football clubs. The session started with Peter Busuttil, representing Malta FA, giving an overview of the various initiatives and projects implemented by Malta FA, such as All In – All for Football. Peter also underlined how some of Malta FA’s previous initiatives have also been recognised by UEFA for best practice amongst all the other European football associations.

The most prominent football teams on the island were present. Their representatives came with a positive attitude showcasing their goodwill and genuine love for the sport. In fact, they participated wholeheartedly in the conversation showing that such opportunities to voice their opinions are sorely needed.

Although everyone recognised the fact that racism is present in Maltese football, they held that such an attitude is not coming from within the administration of the respective football teams. They commented that racism in football is simply a reflection of a wider sentiment present in today’s society.

The discussion then veered towards establishing a proper definition of racism and what practices should be prohibited with club premises and activities. Some argued that jokes in the locker-rooms should not be considered racist as they are endemic to every team and necessary in order to have a united group of players.

Our Director (Neil), acting as discussion facilitator, recognised such dynamics whilst explaining typical minority/majority power dynamics, cautioning  that a player might choose not to show his true emotions in order to avoid being alienated from the group. Most representatives agreed with this point and highlighted the fact that it should be the manager’s responsibility to make sure that players respect each other.

Another interesting point was raised by a representative of the Maltese Youth FA. She pointed out that there are a number of conditions which a young player must satisfy before being allowed to participate in a competitive match. This might result in excluding some youth players from taking part in the sport, particularly young people from disadvantaged contexts such as refugees and migrants.

During the session we learnt that, in Malta, we also have a Match Observer role with a number of responsibilities. One of these is to note and report any racial discrimination or abuse occurring during the match. The Match Observer present during our discussion stated that, whilst during last year’s season there were five reported incidents, this year there was only one reported incident. However, the Match Observer clearly expressed the fact that racism in Maltese stadiums is present, claiming that “ir-razziżmu huwa lampanti”.

It was clear throughout the sessions that both the Malta FA and local football clubs firmly oppose all forms of racism and recognise that it is in their interests for such attitudes to be abolished. Enforcement remained a disputed issue, with the clubs underlining the challenges posed by a system that requires them to monitor their fans’ behaviour during a football match. They also pointed out that identifying the perpetrators of racial chants is complicated since in most cases fans from different clubs sit in the same stands.

We are extremely happy to have collaborated with Malta FA on this important initiative.

It underlined the need for all stakeholders to continue this dialogue in order identify the best way to prevent and tackle racism in football.

We look forward to maintaining this engagement with Malta FA, as we believe in the power of football to bring about social change and to foster refugee and migrant integration.

Neil Falzon, aditus foundation Director

Our Director, Neil, talking about the need for football clubs to have clear rules on what is and what is not acceptable on their premises.

aditus foundation at PICUM General Assembly 2017 in Brussels

From 12 to 13 May 2017 members of the Platform of International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) met in Brussels for the Annual Assembly:  New Challenges and Opportunities for undocumented Migrants’ Rights.

The General Assembly is a crucial event for PICUM members as it is unique opportunity to come together and talk about the situation of undocumented migrants across Europe and to mobilise around main problems. The Assembly is an essential part of PICUM’s calendar as it enables members to talk about key issues, discuss the events from last year and work on strategies for the next year.

From aditus foundation, I participated in the interactive two-day event which consisted of expert panel discussions on recent migrant policy developments, thematic break-out sessions and ‘floor is yours’ sessions hosted by the members. This year PICUM’s key issues included access to healthcare, fair working conditions, access to justice for undocumented women, children and families.

The Assembly started with a discussion about the current EU policies concerning migration, and main events from last year which have the biggest influence on the issue. During the opening panel, speakers such as Franck Duvell from the University of Oxford, Judith Sargentini (Member of European Parliament),  Stephanos Stavros from the Council of Europe and Kadri Soova from PICUM, spoke about the migration crisis in Europe.

Discussions during the conference were mainly focused on the EU’s attempts to regularise the inflow of migrants by negotiating agreements with states through which migrants and refugees are passing to reach the EU. Treaties and agreements with various countries aiming to send refugees back were strongly criticised.

Another important recurring topic was the Dublin Regulation and the negative role it plays in the current situation. All participants agreed that there is an urgent need to change the EU norms concerning the return of refugees to the Member State where they applied for international protection, or through which they originally entered the European Union. It was stressed that all the Member States should share the relocation responsibility of refugees.

Taking into account all the topics raised during the conference, one issue seemed especially crucial as it was common for all the EU. In speeches and during the panel sessions all participants kept mentioning the importance of the fight against hate speech in the context of migration and refugees. Everyone criticised the growth of populism among EU Member States and the negative role played by some governments using this issue in their political  activities.

Together with participating in panels and thematic sessions, we had a chance to get to know each other and share experiences. In our discussions we talked about the situation in our home countries and about the biggest challenges everyone is facing in everyday work.

Taking part in PICUM’s General Assembly was an amazing opportunity to meet inspiring people who are very committed in their fight for a better life for migrants.