Liberinantes – an Italian Inspiration

Today, I experienced another one of those moments that make me love what I do. It’s not about the glamorous moments speaking to powerful people, but rather the people who are strong in their principles and ideals, make things happen on the ground, and remain humble even while moving mountains.

I had the immense pleasure to meet Alberto Urbinati today. He and 8 friends were huge football fans but could not stand the prevalent racism anymore, and wanted to do something practical about it.

So 8 years ago, they started Liberi Nantes, a football club for refugees. The team consists only of refugees and they are actually playing in the official Italian league. They are pushing for the regulations to allow them to move beyond the lowest league- imagine a refugee Serie A team!

I got to spend some time with Alberto and he even invited me to join lunch with him, the players, and the other involved people. It was a special atmosphere – I could feel much he was revered by the players and other team members while he himself remained entirely down to earth and did not accept any special privileges. I was really moved when he talked about his influences, e.g. an annual tournament without referees where it is all about the love of the game and the community, not about winning. This translated into the spirit of Liberi Nantes, in which every player knows two basic rules: smile and respect people – even in the face of hate speech or racism.

I wish I had all of our conversation on video, however, we only filmed a short version. I’ll have the interview with him online soon, until then check out the excellent guardian video above.

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