Roma in Croatia play football against racism and discrimination
Roma have played a football match against Zagreb city officials under the slogan "with a ball against discrimination, racism and poverty."
Members of the Roma community had approached city officials about a match that took place on February 27th. Zagreb City Assembly President Boris Sprem said that authorities had taken the match as an opportunity to highlight difficulties that continued to plague the Roma community in Croatia, such as problems in education, employment and housing.
"It is necessary that all those problems be resolved so that Roma can become better integrated," he told Croatian daily Vecernji List.
Although it was a friendly match and the result didn’t matter, the Roma won by a score of 8-7 in the presence of 100 fans. The match offered a much-needed opportunity for interaction, one of the visitors, Friar Žarko Relota, commented.
Nura Ismailovska, a City Assembly representative who is also a member of the Roma ethnic minority, said that the event's slogan depicts the everyday problems her community faces. "Today, we are showing the public that Roma are not second-class people and that they should be treated as equals. Our differences should bring us closer together, not divide us," she said.
Although there haven't been any concrete steps towards integration, Zagreb’s city government should address the problems of housing, education and employment that are prevalent in Roma communities by 2015.
Roma football coach Toti Dedic, who is also president of World Roma Organization, said that the most important thing was to get members of the ethnic minority out of the ghetto so they could live normal lives and not sell drugs or beg on the street.
His calls for financial support of the European Roma Sport Congress that will take place on 29 and 30 March in Zagreb haven’t been answered.
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