The 'Prima Meta' projects just outside Rome aims to promote migrant inclusion through the sport of rugby. For some, it may even provide a lifeline in becoming recognized as an asylum seeker.
An initiative called "Prima Meta" (English translation: "First Try") hopes to promote social integration among refugees through rugby. Organizers say they believe that sport is a "fundamental component in the life of the individual for the development of positive values such as friendship, fun, healthy competition, physical and mental health, and culture."
"Sports can provide a strong sense of identity, because it transforms athletes into collective actors, who have the same goals and share common interests".
The initiative was first introduced by the CAS migrant reception center, which is operated by the Tre Fontante cooperative in Colleferro, a town located just outside Rome.
Dah Bilal, the director of the CAS Center in Colleferro, told ANSA that the Prima Meta project built on the desire to "want to integrate young men in the area - and Colleferro is famous for rugby after all." Bilal himself started as a migrant who came to Italy 26 years ago, and believes strongly that engaging in sports can be a good "starting point" for greater inclusion in society.
The initiative has attracted a number of refugees, and is already showing first results. A migrant named Mamadi, who has been in Collefero for eight months now, is one of the men who now plays on the Colleferro Rugby team, training three times a week and playing in matches.
"This young man had never even heard about rugby before," Bilal explained. Mamadi has applied for asylum and has been denied but has since appealed the decision. "He began to go to practices and has become well-integrated into the team," Bilal added.
"His path to integration is a very interesting one, and we're supporting it every step of the way," Bilal said, specifying that participation in sport can be an important factor for asylum request appeals as review committees may see the participation in sports as proof of integration in Italian society.