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Biggest match of their lives: young refugees watch Italy play Wales on World Refugee Day

UEFA and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) mark World Refugee Day by inviting football teams competing in national competition for young refugees to Group A match in Rome.

UEFA via Getty Images

When Italy lined up against Wales in their final Group A match at Rome on Sunday, they did so watched by a football team composed entirely of refugees – each of whom has already won the biggest match of their young lives just to be there.

To mark World Refugee Day, the FIGC invited players from Team Roma to the Olympic Stadium. Many fled war and poverty in Africa, Asia or the Balkans to start a new life in Italy.

Together with 92 other teams, Team Roma competes in a national competition organised by the FIGC for teams made up entirely of refugees, who are unaccompanied minors.

The project, called Rete! (Network!), was has been financially supported through UEFA’s HatTrick development programme since 2015 – which channels EURO revenue back into the game – to help young refugees settle into their new communities. Now in its seventh edition, Rete! benefits 1,300 refugees in more than 100 shelters run by non-governmental organisations across the Italian peninsula.

Rete!

How UEFA EURO 2020 is supporting Rete!
How UEFA EURO 2020 is supporting Rete!

Each season, teams take part in 18 regional competitions with the winners progressing to eight inter-regional tournaments. The best eight teams then take part in a national final tournament, with the 2021 edition scheduled to take place in Rome in September.

"Rete! underlines football’s potential for football is helping refugees integrate into their new host communities. “Our sport’s popularity bridges so many social barriers,” says Michele Uva, Director of UEFA’s Football Social Responsibility programme.

"It has the power to connect, regardless of age, colour, gender or belief. At the same time, football’s visibility can raise awareness of, and funds for, refugee programmes."

Earlier this year, UEFA underlined its commitment to building on the success of projects like the FIGC’s Rete! programme, by signing a Cooperation Protocol with UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. The agreement will see the two organisations work together to support refugee access to sport and enhance social inclusion.

To mark World Refugee Day, we put the floodlights on four refugee teams from the north, south and centre of Italy - each linked by Rete!

Action from Rete's 2019 edition
Action from Rete's 2019 editionGetty Images

Team Roma

Location
• Rome, Lazio

Team members
• Unaccompanied minors from north Africa, Asia and the Balkans who have found shelter at the Citta dei Ragazzi

Honours
• participants in Rome’s regional final

Partners
• Fondazione Citta dei Ragazzi, set up in 1953, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which provides free schooling and vocational training in carpentery, gardening, pottery, cooking to young orphans

Team Marsala

Location
• Marsala, Sicily

Team members
• more than 20 refugees who have started new lives in Sicily after fleeing African countries

Honours
• winners of Sicilian regional final staged at Stadio Renzo Barbera in Palermo
• qualifed for national final in Rome in September 2021

Partners
• Cooperativa l’Arca, a local NGO which hosts unaccompanied minors
• FC Palermo

Team Lodi

Location

Lodi, Lombardy

Honours
• winners of 2019
• winners of 2021 Lombardy regional final staged
• qualified for national final in Rome in September 2021

Partners
• Cooperativa Sociale Le Pleiadi, a local NGO, which hosts team members and helps with their schooling, on- and off-the-pitch
• Societa Sportive ASD Laudense, local football club whose players work closely with Cooperativa Sociale Le Pleiadi

Team Altosannio

Location
Altosannio, Campania

Team members
• Unaccompanied minors from Central Africa and Pakistan, who are rebuilding their lives in Italy

Honours
• Third-place in 2019 national tournament final
• winners of Campania regional final staged in Naples
• qualifed for national final in Rome in September 2021

Partners
• Cooperativa Sociale Giada Onlus, a local non-governmental organization (NGO) which hosts unaccompanied minors

Six ways UEFA Is supporting refugees