ASPIRE Sport gathered policy-makers, scientists, practitioners and a wide range of interested stakeholders from the sport community to its Final Conference. The Conference aim was to present key scientific results and demonstrate how to open sports clubs to refugees and contribute to social inclusion through sport.
“Sport helped me in good and bad times. Sport can make you a survivor", with this very personal and powerful message Orsolya Tolnay, the ASPIRE Sport project manager, welcomed all participants at the perfectly prepared headquarters of the German Olympic Committee in Frankfurt am Main, on 14 June 2019.
The conference began in full swing and the stage was taken by Katrin Koennen, Director of scientific affairs at ICSSPE and Kat Craig, Athlead CEO. Following the ambitions of ASPIRE Team, to not only present the projects results, but also create an atmosphere of discussion and self-reflection, the symposium on the potential of sport as a context for helping social inclusion of migrants began with a thought provoking message from Kat Craig:
"We are facing a welcoming crisis, not a refugee or European crisis."
The challenge of making our communities more welcoming, bringing diverse people together was expanded further by Monica Namy, UEFA and her great presentation about the #EqualGame UEFA campaign. #EqualGame aims to spread a positive spirit of inclusion, show how the game enriches by greater diversity and explain the European football family’s role to make the sport open and accessible to all.
After a well-deserved lunch break the participants were divided into two groups and started working during parallel workshops.
The Capacity-building workshop asked the participants a difficult question "what is my personal activity in creating a more inclusive environment?" and, in the next part, presented different ways available to the citizens, migrants, refugees to participate in the EU political life.
Associated with the world of politics and business, the word "Lobbing" was introduced in a different context. Jesse Colzani from The Good Lobby along with Gerard Esteva, President of the Catalan Union of Sport Federations and Gijs Vercoutere, Minor Ndako presented the concept of Citizen Lobbying. Participants of the workshop were invited on a 10-step journey on how to become a Citizen Lobbyist and make our personal voice heard. Already the first point "pick your battle" caused personal reflections about our personal participation in creating the world around us.
The second workshop took “Leadership” in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals - a set of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. Inspired by the words “if you want different results you must act differently” and supported by Daniel Cade, SchweryCade, Piara Powar, FARE Network and Kurt Wachter, Fairplay Initiative, participants worked on innovative, but real-life solutions, how sport can contribute to reducing poverty, promoting high quality education or supporting peace, justice and strong institutions. 90 minutes of intense work brought a catalogue of proposals that have the potential to make real changes in local, everyday communities.
Both workshops provided such a high quality time and led to detailed discussions at the expert level that – with no time left - left the participants in a slight “lack of time” disappointment.
The last session of the ASPIRE Sport Final Conference was another firework. One high-level discussion panel, one-of-a-kind moderator, Jutta Buyse from European Lotteries and 4 panellists.
Nick Sore presented the over 25-year relationship between the UN for Refuges and the International Olympic Committee and presented the Sport for Protection toolkit. Aisha Al-Said, Fundació Barça, drew attention to the real power of sport - not as a tool for competition, but as an intercultural, transnational tool for feeling connected, making friends, learning teamwork and building self-confidence.
Huseyin Cifci, president of PRODYNA, raised the topic of activating migrants and refugees not interested in participating in sports, and Mohamad Jarkas, ASPIRE Sport #MondayHERO and one of key speaker during ASPIRE training session in Belgium, shared his story of whistling last matches in the Syrian Premier League, swimming from Turkey to Greece and waiting in refugee row in Serbia for more than 30 hours.
The conference conclusions began with Daniel Cade from SchweryCade, who shared the call to action from Sport4Refugees (please have a look and sign the call: http://sport4refugees.net), but the last words could only belong to the Secretary General of ENGSO, Stefan Bergh.
The general secretary left all conference participants with a simple and often forgotten call to action:
"Collaborate and continue to share experiences!"
Thanking for the extraordinary organizational support from DOSB, moderation support provided by the European Lotteries, long-term partner of ENGSO and one of the strongest organization supporting grass-roots in Europe and receiving very positive feedback from conference participants and partners that have been engaged throughout the project - ASPIRE Sport Team is very, very proud of the last two years!
We have created something special, and thanks to a very successful final conference we believe the project has a chance for further development in the structures of the partners.