Sport et Citoyenneté

Brussels, 27 September 2016

The European Parliament takes the development of sport at youth level at heart. It welcomed the ‘Youth and Sport: Team-up for inclusive societies’’ debate, organised jointly by the Youth Intergroup and the Sport Intergroup of the European Parliament. Promoted by several organisations among which ENGSO Youth, the conference’s aim was to discuss ideas and present projects relating to the importance and promotion of the practice of sport by youth.


MEP Marc Tarabella gave an introduction to the debate, in which he set out the importance of sport for young children, as it consists of a combination of physical activity and guidance for the learning of key societal values.


The first panel focused on ‘Sport and Youth sector working on inclusive learning’ and was chaired by MEP Marc Tarabella.


The presentations focused on sport’s use as a vehicle for learning at many levels, especially with regards to literacy and societal values. Jamie Skinner (Education Officer from Leicester City Football Club) presented the inclusive learning project ‘Reading Stars’ and spoke about the work done by Leicester FC to engage young people, who are passionate about football, into education. Being taught by a teacher wearing a Leicester tracksuit or following online video courses led by a Leicester FC player have been a couple of successful ways to encourage young people to improve their literacy skills.


‘Football is a driver to help children learn with more motivation.’ – J. Skinner


Member of the audience and Belgian ex-international football player Mbo Mpenza underlined the importance of showing that footballers do not only play matches and pose for magazines, but also read and strive to have good literacy skills.


Echoing Sport and Citizenship’s recent round table on the topic of ‘Sport and Migration: what contribution for football?’[1] the discussion turned to the inclusion of refugees. Frederique Loones (Coordinator Youth Policy at De Ambassade) presented the ‘GloBall’ project that brings youth work to refugee reception centres in Flanders. The main goal of the project is to strengthen the ties between young refugees and locals.


Social inclusion does not only apply to refugees but also to sport teams. Despite the positive values taught by sports[2], social exclusion can occur within a squad. Reflecting on how to prevent this, Rain Oderneise, who works at the Free University of Brussels as a social researcher, called for a de-radicalisation of entrenched beliefs and for a radicalisation of action. Concretely, this means teaching social workers how to manage sports teams, so that they can become coaches sensitive to the social cohesion of their squad. Optimistic about this recommendation, M. Oderneise likened such leaders to superheroes, before urging sport clubs to shift their focus away from commercial success and towards inclusion.


‘We need superheroes to manage sports teams!’ – R. Oderneise


Highlighting another facet of social exclusion and presenting his organisation’s strategy to tackle it, Sam Brown (Coach at the Manchester City Kicks programme) presented ‘Kicks,’ a project aimed at fighting anti-social behavior in Manchester. M. Brown joined the programme after having himself engaged in anti-social behavior and has since progressed to being part of the staff. Bringing youths from different parts of the city into contact has been an important step in bridging antagonism and reducing violence between different gangs.


The second panel on ‘Sport and Youth Organisations as champions of social inclusion’ was chaired by an MEP from the Youth Intergroup, with the emphasis placed on inclusion via activities such as scouting and initiatives to use sport as a self-esteem builder[3], in order to settle easily into work life.


According to Camilla Palazzini (External Relations Officer for the World Organisation of the Scout Movement), scouting is about creating a better world and is a complement to the educational system. In 2014, her organisation launched a programme on inclusion, in the form of a set of trainings in Europe targeting scout leaders. It was a considerable success since 2,500 children were reached.


‘Scouting is about creating a better world’ – C. Palazzini


Sport and outdoor activities teach positive values and give a positive outlook on life. This aspect is also transferable to other areas of life. Gerard Esteva (President of the Sports Federation Union of Catalunya) presented the project ‘Inter-Sport focusing on sport as a tool for social inclusion,’ with the objective of finding employment for youth who have difficulties. The model proposed is fourfold: building self-esteem, obtaining a study certificate, being successful in a first job and maintaining healthy habits.


Presentations ended with an address from Michael Leyendecker (ENGSO Youth – German Olympic Sport Federation) on how to use sport for interreligious dialogue and intercultural exchanges. He presented a sport translation mobile app, aimed at helping coaches overcome language barriers during trainings.


Concluding remarks by Antonio Silva Mendes, Director for Youth and Sport at the European Commission brought attention on the need to strengthen cooperation between the youth and sport sector. “Empowering current young generations is key to build a stronger, healthier and more inclusive future”, he emphasized.


After the conference ended, Sport and Citizenship conducted a televised interview – the Sport Corner – in the European Parliament with Laurent Pétrynka (President International School Sport Federation) and Marc Tarabella (Co-Chair of the Sport Intergroup) chaired by Pauline Armandet.

@Timothée Louette – Sport and Citizenship



[3] Sport and Citizenship has produced extensive analysis on this subject:


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