UEFA has called for the respect of diversity in football at an event hosted by the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
UEFA Executive Committee member Michael van Praag, who is also president of the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB), highlighted UEFA’s Respect campaign and stressed football’s determination to the rid the game of racism and intolerance at the opening of the “United in Diversity” exhibition, which focusses on fighting discrimination and achieving social inclusion in and through sport. The exhibition is organised by the European Parliament Friends of Football in cooperation with UEFA.
“Speaking about the importance of diversity,” said Mr van Praag, “gives me the opportunity to speak about the UEFA Respect campaign. UEFA's social responsibility initiative was launched by the UEFA President at UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland and has developed into a sustainable programme which targets some key social issues which are of European concern.”
“UEFA’s Respect campaign is a continuous commitment among others to combat any form of discrimination, thus Respect Diversity; increase access for fans with disabilities, thus Respect Inclusion; promote health through an active lifestyle, thus Respect Health; care for a stakeholder dialogue with the fan movement, thus Respect Fan culture.
Mr van Praag said that trying to eradicate racial discrimination – “a phenomena which is deeply rooted in European societies and football” - was a tempting call. "Trying to increase respect for diversity is perhaps a more realistic call,” he reflected.
“Our ambition is to use the popularity of European football to increase respect for diversity not only in and around the game, but European society as a whole.”
Mr van Praag emphasised that football, as the world’s most popular sport loved by millions, reflects the society in which it flourishes – reflecting its values, but also its prejudices, fears and suspicions. People are frequently subjected to discrimination based on, among other things, ideas, beliefs, gender or sexual preferences. He stressed that football had a duty to disseminate values that would help society understand the need for diversity.
“Respect” is a campaign to tackle – an appropriate word in a football context – the phenomena of discrimination is one that often plague our sport,” the KNVB president continued. “Nowadays, football does not tolerate any form of discrimination, whether racial, cultural, religious, sexist or homophobic.”
“Because it is often more open to diversity than the rest of society, progress can be made more easily in football than in other social fields. And it is because football is the most popular game in Europe, that we can legitimately hope that the example it must set will have positive repercussions on society we live in.”
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