Delegates at the third Unite Against Racism Conference in Warsaw were taken on a visit of the Jewish Historical Institute on their arrival in the Polish capital on Tuesday. The Institute was founded to preserve the heritage and history of Poland's Jewish community and to provide a lasting memorial to the lives lost during the Holocaust. According to William Gaillard, advisor to the UEFA President, the visit "served as a stark reminder why conferences like this are so important".
Gaillard, along with joint chair Piara Powar, director of FARE UK members Kick It Out, opened the conference on Tuesday evening, looking to build on the success of previous conferences in London in 2003 and Barcelona three years ago. London, Gaillard said, had been chosen as the first venue because of Britain's leading role in the fight against racism. The conference in Barcelona had helped address problems particular to southern Europe. Now, with UEFA EURO 2012™ to be hosted in Poland and Ukraine, it was time to "examine issues we are confronted with in the east".
The scope of the conference, though, is wider than that. Powar welcomed "delegates from across the football family" including representatives from the member associations, non-governmental organizations, fan groups, clubs, player representatives and players themselves. "It is a true coming together of the football family," he said. "It is crucial to us to show that diversity and anti-discrimination are not add-ons to sport, but part and parcel of what we do. The conference is an opportunity to come together and set an agenda for European football and underline the positive values embedded in our sport." To illustrate this, delegates were shown a clip of the film 'Different Languages, One Goal, Say no to Racism' which was screened throughout UEFA EURO 2008™ (click here) and also at half-time during UEFA Champions League matches this season. "It is about different languages, different shirts, different ethnic groups, but the same humanity," Gaillard said.
The final part of the session was devoted to hearing what the delegates themselves expected from the conference. Daniela Conti, Powar's colleague at FARE and representative of the organization The Union of Italian Sport for All, was interested to learn new ideas about gender issues and the struggle against homophobia going into the next Mondiali Antirazzisti – an amateur world event held each year. She also celebrated the progress FARE has made in its tenth anniversary year and called on delegates to "build new projects, create new associations and to give a new impulse to our struggle to end every form of discrimination".
UEFA's Julien Zylberstein, meanwhile, emphasised how important the timing of the conference is given the current economic climate, stressing how "history has shown that in times of crisis people turn in on themselves and against all differences". He added: "The great French novelist Stendahl wrote: 'I have lived long enough to see that difference breeds hatred'. Let us prove him wrong." In keeping with the theme of participation, members of the audience were invited to discuss their hopes and expectations for the conference. "Audience engagement is absolutely crucial to this event," Powar said.
FARE had held its NGO forum earlier in the day with delegates from over 35 countries in attendance. The network gave a collective overview of highlights over the past decade such as the continued success of the Mondiali, increased membership from European nations and the further alignment with the game's European bodies. There was also a chance to look ahead to immediate campaigns at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and UEFA EURO 2012™.
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