By Felix Do Nascimento
It is unusual that we speak about football on this blog. However, as you might know, Erasmus+ is the EU programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport. Sport and physical activities are recognised for their contribution in enhancing wellbeing, health and social cohesion and can have a significant pedagogical and educational role in everybody’s development.
I would like to bring forward some great initiatives connecting football and community engagement which I experienced during my stay in Merseyside. I believe these stimulating initiatives should get more visibility for organisations and professionals working in the Erasmus+ world, as well as solidarity projects and community work. If Liverpool is known for its two massive clubs, the Liverpool FC and the Everton FC, I will focus on smaller football teams I heard about during my stay in Merseyside. These grassroot initiatives are the City of Liverpool FC, and the AFC Liverpool, two non-league teams (non-professional) leading a successful experience with a significant impact on the local community.
The Grassroot Recovery of Football
AFC Liverpool is an independent football club that was set up in 2008 by Liverpool fans who were priced out of top-flight football.” AFC Liverpool website
Facing the triumph of football business, and the increasement of tickets prices in stadiums, football fans have been a great force of auto organisation. The AFC Liverpool standing for Affordable Football Club of Liverpool, represents this fight against stadiums gentrification and the misappropriation of the famous Liverpool FC by the football business.
It was first mainly directed towards Liverpool FC fans who could not afford or get tickets Premier League games, offering another vision of football which is more popular and community based. In this way, the AFC Liverpool offers a framework for an open and inclusive sociability which offers to practice and support the local team in a grassroot and popular atmosphere.
Founded in 2008 by some Liverpool FC fans, the AFC Liverpool is a not for profit football club with the particularity to be entirely owned and run by its fans, supporters, members and players. Anyone can become a member and all members have an equal vote on the decisions held by the club making it work as a democratic and horizontal organisation.
Other community and independent football clubs such as; the Clapton CFC in London, the FC United of Manchester, or the City of Liverpool FC are based in the UK and promote the the role and the potential of football to enhance social cohesion and democracy.
The positive impact of football across the community
Also based in Merseyside, the City of Liverpool FC (COLFC) was formed in 2015 and registered as a Community Benefit Society owned by its own fans and supporters who pay a low annual membership.
In addition to its involvement in the Northern Premier League, the Purps (their nickname) are leading several programmes aiming at “using football to make a positive impact across Liverpool”:
- The Football 4 Everyone scheme provides free football training and games sessions in an inclusive environment to “increase the participation in those who are socially isolated and excluded”. It is particularly relevant and destined to Refugees and Asylum seekers who are more at risk of social exclusion. These sessions also aim at “promoting unity and diversity across Liverpool” by bringing together refugees/asylum seekers and locals.
- The Free Walking Football Sessions are destined to anyone struggling to play or be involved in a physical activity. These sessions contribute to enhancing social inclusion in the community, as well as improving health and wellbeing of people of all ages.
- The Purple Pantry is a charity food scheme that “provides a range of food, household products and toiletries to local families who find themselves struggling to put food on the table”. It is run by “COLFC Community volunteers” committed in the daily Club’s life. (If you want to help: https://uk.gofundme.com/f/purple-pantry-local-food-emergency-drops)
Following the historical implantation of Antifascists movements in Liverpool, combined with a strong community engagement and their assumed left-wing political anchor, the COLFC decided to wear their conviction on their kits with the slogan: “Love COLFC, Hate Racism”. This antiracist engagement with the reference to antifascist movements over history is also very present in clubs such as the Clapton CFC, based in London, another community-based football team with an old history in Football.
In conclusion, as well as providing a safe and inclusive social environment and the practice of physical activities, these initiatives have a significant role to play in connecting people with meaningful community activities. These initiatives have become true places for community building and engagement, as well as, for conviviality.
To avoid narrowing these initiatives purposes and aims we really suggest that you to take a look at their activities and website in closer detail:
- AFC Liverpool, https://afcliverpool.co.uk/
Other comparable initiatives in Europe less famous than the FC Saint Pauly in Germany or the Red Star in France:
- Clapton Community FC, London UK, https://www.claptoncfc.co.uk/
- FC United of Manchester, UK http://www.fc-utd.co.uk/index.php
- Spartak Lillois in Lille, France, https://spartaklillois.org/
- Roter Stern Leipzig 99, Germany, https://rotersternleipzig.de/language/englisch-english/
If you know of any other initiatives, please share them in the comment section below!
By Felix Do Nascimento
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Kairos Europe, its partners or their employees.