One of the players of 'Tam Tam' during training in a court by the sea of Castel Volturno | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA/CIRO FUSCO
One of the players of 'Tam Tam' during training in a court by the sea of Castel Volturno | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA/CIRO FUSCO

Players of a basketball team in Castel Voltuno (Caserta, Italy) have been barred from taking part in the U17 and U19 national championships because they are not Italian citizens. The decision by the Italian Basketball Federation has sparked controversy and a political debate about discrimination.

Players of the Tam Tam Basket team in Castel Volturno (Caserta) in Campania will not be able to take part in the top U17 and U19 national championships, the club said on Tuesday (October 27). That's because nearly all the adolescents were born to foreign parents and do not hold citizenship.

The same thing happened in 2017 when the Italian Basketball Federation (FIP) did not allow the U14 team players to compete.

However, the Tam Tam team has filed an appeal against the exclusion of the U17 team in the regional administrative court (TAR) and is waiting for a decision.

Meanwhile no appeal has been presented for the U19 team because they appear to meet the requirements for admission according to FIP regulations -- having played at least four years and a minimum of 14 games each season.

The reasons for the red light

After the protests and uproar caused by the U14 case in 2017, the federation changed its regulation for regional championships and the Tam Tam U14 team was admitted. An objective limit was posed by a federal rule that set a limit of two foreign players per team. The government went a step further with a measure in the so- called "stability law" which was dubbed the "Tam Tam rescue" plan which said that any foreign minor had a right to play, provided he or she regularly attended school in Italy.

With the new legislation everything appeared to be solved. But the Italian Basketball Federation barred the two teams "because that change in the regulation only concerned regional championships, while with the U17 and U19 we should have registered with the 'tournaments of Excellence' that have national relevance," explained the head coach of Tam Tam, Max Antonelli.

"We asked FIP for a waiver but they said no, explaining that they also consulted with the other teams with which we were supposed to play."

"This position cannot be accepted, given the existence of the 'Tam Tam legislation' and the 'Ius Soli Sportivo' (law of the soil in sports) that many federations have adopted," said head coach Antonelli.

Under the 2016 law 'ius soli sportivo', foreign minors over 10 residing in Italy can become members of sports federation "with the same procedures" as Italian citizens.

Antonelli said that the Basketball Federation should have accepted Tam Tam to the championships "given the favorable position expressed by (the federation's) president Giovanni Petrucci and CONI President Giovanni Malagò, who have always talked about inclusion, especially after the Olympics," he added.

While waiting for the regional court to decide on the U17 case, Antonelli expressed confidence that the problem regarding the U19 team will be solved.

"In our opinion, the team abide by the Federation's rules under which foreign teens must have trained for at least four years and played at least 14 games each season. FIP told us that in the 2017-2018 championship, our boys did not play 14 games but less -- however that isn't true," the coach explained.

'The kids' fault? They are the children of immigrants', Anzaldi

The case of Tam Tam Basket has sparked a political debate. "Five years of championships, of games, of victories are not enough to allow these boys to compete in sports serenely, like their peers. Their 'fault'? They are the children of immigrants. Yet how can you describe as 'foreigners' youths who were born in Italy and who have attended Italian schools since they were little? What happened to the beautiful words pronounced in Tokyo by the leaders of Italian sport as well as by the institutional world?," wrote on Facebook the lawmaker of the Italia Viva (IV) party and secretary of the parliamentary oversight committee for State broadcaster RAI, Michele Anzaldi.

Another comment was made by Bruno Molea, who drafted the 2016 law on 'Ius soli sportivo' and who is the president of one of the top agencies to promote sport in Italy (AiCS). "This moment should be used to change the rules," he said. "FIP should reconsider allowing the very young (players) of Tam Tam Basket" to compete, "at least as an exception."

"They were born and live in Italy: how can they be called foreigners? Not letting them play is a discrimination. In a territory like Castel Volturno, the experience of Tam Tam Basket is a miracle: letting them play is also necessary to show that rules can be changed," Molea concluded.


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