Football challenging intercultural sharing

(Part 1)

From Cañada Real – a shanty town on the outskirts of Madrid.

For Adrian, a 17-year-old Romani who lives in Cañada and is a big fan of Sergio Ramos, and Mohammed, a 16‑year-old Moroccan who dreams of one day seeing Messi play, the recent ‘Moros v Gitanos’ tournament was Cañada Real’s equivalent of Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona.

Last February, Red Deporte organised a special Under-15 tournament for boys from the two largest communities living in Cañada: Moroccans and Roma – ‘Moros v Gitanos’, as the locals dubbed it. For the hundreds of boys and girls who came to cheer the teams on, the result mattered a lot, with both communities keen to prove their superiority. However, despite the divisions between the two groups, there was mutual respect and a good atmosphere throughout, with all tension relating purely to the football.

Through this tournament, Red Deporte sought to foster mutual respect and friendship, without seeking to eliminate spontaneity – as reflected, for example, in the name that the children gave to the tournament. Indeed, one of Red Deporte’s key objectives is to use football – and sport in general – to break down barriers and prejudices, both inside and outside Cañada.

Both teams conducted themselves impeccably on the pitch – a far cry from the stereotypical behaviour that a large section of our society would expect from ‘gitanos’ and ‘moros’. Although the Moroccans secured a narrow victory on the pitch, everyone was a winner, enjoying a great day’s football and successfully using sport to dignify life in Cañada a little.

Red Deporte’s football programme, which is run under the motto ‘football with no limits’, is also aimed at other immigrant and refugee groups in the Madrid region.

Cañada Real, where those young people live, is just 7km from Madrid – a stone’s throw away. And yet, their infrastructure and environmental conditions are light years away from those seen in the Spanish capital. Meanwhile, the neighbourhood shared by the Moroccan and Roma communities is, in turn, divided by an age‑old invisible wall called ‘mistrust’. Those two communities are both beneficiaries of the sports programme run by Red Deporte and four other social organisations in Cañada, but the Roma and the Moroccans essentially train separately seven days a week.