The Rome-based multi-ethnic football team "Pineto United" has protested against the shutdown of a migrant hosting center in the capital's Aurelia district. Club supporters say this will bring an end to the "training and social inclusion process of these boys."
Their green uniforms turn into a blur in a soccer field of suburban Rome. Their fans from the neighborhood mobilized to prevent the shutdown of a migrant hosting center on the Via Aurelia road where these young migrant players live. But with the shutdown, the growing number of young migrants who have joined the squad would be relocated. The Pineto United, a model of integration in northern Rome, may cease to exist.
'We are losing parts of the team'
The team includes boys from the neighborhood and 15 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. ''We are losing members of the team - our forward, one of the best, had to leave already,'' said Samba, 22, from Guinea, who is team captain. He is also preparing to leave the Gelsomino hosting center, which will be forced to close due to economic problems, operators said.
The prefecture has developed a plan to reallocate the center's 165 guests, including some who will be moved to centers far from the capital. The team was formed by the "Pinacci Nostri" arts association. Team supporters say the closure will cause an ''abrupt interruption to the training program and social inclusion of these boys.''
Local residents protest
Some of the neighborhood's residents staged a sit-in in front of the center and unfurled a banner that they use during the team's games. The banner said "Northwest Donkeys" an assonance with monkeys, to ''poke fun at racist chants which unfortunately can be heard at Italian stadiums that are far larger than ours.''
The 15 20-year-olds from Gambia, Mali and the Ivory Coast have been playing with the team alongside their Roman teammates for two years. They play in the Petrol Cup, a third-division tournament and are involved in projects for the preservation of the nearby Pineto Regional Park, which the team is named after. In addition, they volunteer in restoration projects for abandoned areas in the district, including a former soccer field in the Valle Aurelia, and in community projects.