Etnoliga: Cross-cultural Football Project
Sport connects people regardless of skin colour, gender or religion. This is a kind of football we play. To integrate migrants, empower women, promote fair play, break stereotypes and learn from other cultures.
We are a group of several hundred people of different ages. Migrants, Poles, students, refugees, businessman, homeless… We all live in Warsaw and love football. Teams are mixed: there are no national squads, men and women play together. Participants prepare contests, food and cultural activities. Scoring systems reward fair play and engagement. Players themselves decide on the rules for each season. Participation is free of charge. We organise training and sparring games, charity tournaments and activities for refugee kids. We show up at festivals, fairs and other events to promote our vision of sport. We train teachers, do workouts, publish manuals.
is one of the most underrated instruments of social change. It plays an important cultural role and gives a sense of belonging. Common passion and universal rules are naturally linked to education. We use football to break down stereotypes and seek common language between dispersed groups, especially those who do not participate in other forms of integration because of linguistic, psychological or financial barriers.
Why is it so important?
We witness racist incidents at stadiums and school playgrounds everyday. Some threw bananas at Dani Alves from the stands, some buzzed monkey chants at Samuel Eto’o. Jews, Roma, LGBTQ and other groups were insulted. Women role is depreciated. FIFA organises championships in the countries where human rights are constantly violated. That’s our problem, because that’s our sport. And it all depends on us.
What can be done?
Samuel Eto’o and Kevin Prince Boateng left the pitch to protest. Dani Alves ate the banana thrown from the stands. Maribel Domínguez fought to play in men’s club. Predrag Pašić in peak of his career left Germany to train kids in besieged Sarajevo. Carlos Caszely opposed the Chilean dictatorship despite the tortures. Sócrates tackled anti-democratic standards in his club. Didier Drogba used his fame to lead peace in Ivory Coast’s embroiled in war. In Poland we created Etnoliga.
History in a nutshell
In 2005 we organised a tournament for asylum seekers from Chechnya and Africa, Polish students and pupils. Next year new groups joined us, Vietnamese among others. In the third and fourth tournament we had already 12 teams, including representations of the Jewish community and Legia Warszawa supporters. We started cooperation with women players, introducing a minimum number of 3 women in each team. Due to the great interest, in 2010 we launched a solid league. And thus, a modest idea for a one-off tournament transformed into a big intercultural sports initiative, one of the most recognised in Central and Eastern Europe.