With UEFA lending its high-profile platforms, European football has united as part of the FARE Action Weeks with a clear message that discrimination must be eliminated from the game.
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'Football People' throughout Europe – including many of the game's superstars – have united to give a clear message that discrimination has no place in football as part of the 2013 FARE Action Weeks, organised by UEFA's long-standing partner, the FARE network.
After starting as a minor campaign in nine countries in 2001, the FARE Action Weeks have become the biggest event of their kind in Europe and, once again, brought together fans, minority groups, activists and grassroots groups with players, clubs, leagues and football associations in a united front against all forms of discrimination on and off the pitch. 'We are Football People' has been the message across a wide variety of activities taking place in 46 countries in Europe and in the continents of Africa, South America and North America.
The two weeks of action from 15–29 October saw the UEFA/FARE partnership come to the fore, with matches in the two major European club competitions – the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League – providing a high-profile platform for the campaign against racism, discrimination and intolerance in football.
The aim of the Action Weeks is to increase public awareness of the discrimination in football, create a united front by bringing together everyone in the game, and develop ideas and new practices that challenge exclusion. For the 2013 edition, over 270 groups were awarded grants by FARE to aid activities including, among others, stadium choreographies, tournaments, debates and countless undertakings looking to tackle discrimination through football's popularity and social standing.
UEFA has lent its full backing to the Action Weeks. The European governing body produced a video containing testimonials from football personalities supporting the campaign, and the video was a prominent feature on the matchdays on 22–24 October, being shown in each stadium. Team captains wore No to Racism armbands, anti-racism messages were played over clubs' public address systems, and a No to Racism pennant was passed between players in the pre-match lineups. Extending beyond the Action Weeks, at the start of every match this season, No to Racism banners are being displayed noticeably on the pitch.
"The Action Weeks are a celebration of the positive change that football can bring and an opportunity to seek new solutions to tackle discrimination," said FARE executive director Piara Powar. "The Football People theme reflects the message of unity and inclusiveness."
A number of European clubs have joined UEFA in making their own anti-racism videos. Celtic FC, Valencia CF and GNK Dinamo Zagreb are three eminent examples, and teams from all levels have made interesting contributions – such as Germany's Fortuna Düsseldorf 1895, SG Dynamo Dresden and MSV Duisburg.
The Swiss Super League got behind the FARE Action Weeks with the participation of all their clubs, who produced short statement clips in which their captains spoke out against discrimination. Fans who supported the initiative could win special jerseys with an anti-racist message.
Women's football also supplied an excellent platform for the anti-racism message. The Austrian Football Association (ÖFB) campaigned for diversity and respect in football at its national side's FIFA Women's World Cup qualifier against France. In an initiative arranged in cooperation with the FARE member organisation Fair Play. Different Colours. One Game. the players showed racism the red card, and ahead of kick-off, the team captains called for commitment against exclusion, homophobia and sexism.
Fans also made telling statements against racism, and there were notable activities in support of refugees and migrants. Other clubs and groups focused on the fight against homophobia. People from different communities have been brought together over the past two weeks through sport as a result of events that seek to strengthen social inclusion.
FARE is greatly encouraged by the general developments witnessed around Europe. The network says that many more fan groups are organising themselves to challenge racism and discrimination. The organisation has also dedicated considerable attention and worked hard to raise awareness in countries in eastern and central Europe, with positive results being forthcoming.
"We are proud that the Action Weeks are now the largest social message activity in sport," says Piara Powar, "with involvement from small grassroots groups to some of the largest clubs in Europe through the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. UEFA's support has been vital in getting our message across to a global audience." With UEFA and FARE at the forefront, the fight to rid football of the negative phenomena of racism and intolerance can only continue to gain strong momentum.
More information on the Action Weeks and what has been taking place can be found here or go to Twitter (@farenet) or Facebook.com/farenetwork.