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Pagi: the Migrant Football Team in Italy
Sassari, Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
15 Nov 2015

Pagi is a migrant soccer team in Saridinia, one of the poorest regions in Italy, but a place where migrants were welcomed by immigration centers as a response to the immigrants’ needs, mostly boys from Sub-Saharan Africa.
 All asylum seekers want to find a job, however it is very difficult for them to do so in one of the poorest regions of Italy. For this reason the Cooperative decided to create this team to motivate and help these boys, who fled from wars, hunger and poverty that find themselves playing around a ball.
In Sassari, north of Sardinia, one of these centers called "Centro di Prima Accoglienza di Predda Niedda" created the football club ASD PAGI to help with the integration of young migrant boys.
Later, this club was officially registered in the second amateurs league. This is the first case in Italy in which a football club, entirely composed of immigrants without a residence permit and seeking international protection, has obtained from the FGC (Italian Football Federation) authorization to participate in the regional championship.
The immigration center was a hotel before, and it was called "Hotel Pagi". Nowadays, it is managed by the Cooperative ASD which created the football club ASD PAGI. It is the new home of approximately three hundred boys, most of whom come from different Sub-Saharan African countries like Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal, Togo and Mali. All of them are waiting the result of the Territorial Commission; the process can be concluded with the recognition of refugee status or subsidiary protection status, or a rejection, against which the applicant may appeal.

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Pagi: the Migrant Football Team in Italy
Sassari, Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
15 Nov 2015

ShortDoc by Alice Sassu and Francesco Pistilli
A positive story of sports and integration coming from Sardinia, Sassari. Boys who fled from wars, hunger and poverty have ended up playing with a ball.

In Sardinia, one of the poorest regions in Italy, migrants are welcomed at immigration centres as a response to their emergency condition. The former "Hotel Pagi", located in the industrial area of the city, is now the "Centro di Prima Accoglienza di Predda Niedda", directed by the ASD Cooperative. Pierpaolo Cermelli, Fabiana Denurra and a cultural mediator, named Ali Bouchouata, have decided to create a football team to motivate the young boys and to promote their social integration. The "ASD Pagi" team, coached by Mauro Fanti, faces now the final stages of the championship, in the second regional division.

For the first time in the Italian history, an immigration centre gets approval from the Italian Football Game Federation to participate in a regional football league with a team entirely comprised by asylum seekers, waiting for a residence permission.

The centre homes approximately three hundred young people from different countries in sub-Saharan Africa (such as Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal, Togo, Mali). Some of these people ran away from family feuds, religious conflicts and dictatorial governments. Some others found themselves without a family, or are simply looking to change their "luck". But they all dream with starting a new life in Europe.

Pending on the resolution of the Territorial Commission, these asylum seekers follow the legal steps of a process that will finish with one the following possible outcomes: a recognition of their refugee status, a subsidiary or humanitarian protection, or their deportation. The bureaucracy is way too slow, and the majority of them must wait at least two or three years to know their fate. Meanwhile, some of them try to defy the football teams of one of the poorest regions of Italy.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 13
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
15 Nov 2015

After traveling thousands of miles across multiple countries, the players of ASD Pagi use their soccer matches as a temporary escape and a way to forget that they are still in search of a permanent home. Running on their dusty field with their teammates offers a sense of freedom and, perhaps more importantly, a temporary family.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 04
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
15 Nov 2015

Compared to other regional teams, ASD Pagi sometimes struggles to practice before the season begins. At the season opener, they played on their home field but lost.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 15
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
08 Nov 2015

With Sardinia already one of Italy's poorest regions, it i€™s challenging for refugees to find a job. Sometimes they are reduced to begging for change from passerby.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 02
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
06 Nov 2015

Part of the all-migrant football team living inside an immigration centre in a suburb of Sassari, in Sardinia, Italy. Sometimes the ASD Pagi football club organizes friendly games with other teams composed of refugees at other immigration centres.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 16
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
05 Nov 2015

Mujeeb Adebisi, 19 years-old, from Nigeria. Mujeed was football player in his country. Mujeed lost his sister in a car accident in which he was the driver. After her death he faced many problems in the neighbourhood and had to leave. Mujeeb during his journey north he has passed through Niger before arriving in Libya. In Libya he was kidnapped and had to live for two months in a small room with many other refugees. Mujeeb is a new player for the all-refugee football club "ASD Pagi".

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 21
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
29 Oct 2015

Part of the Nigerian team on the bench. Sometimes the ASD Pagi football club organizes friendly games with another team composed of others migrants hosted in the same Immigration Centre.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 25
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
29 Oct 2015

Sometimes ASD Pagi will play other teams composed of refugees. For Orobosa Andrew, an ASD player, and Collins, a fellow refugee playing on another team, it’s a chance to reconnect.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 14
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
27 Oct 2015

At €œCentro di Prima Accoglienza di Predda Niedda, Nigerian boys are playing football on the lay-by. There are almost 100 Nigerians inside this centre. Most of them have received the first negative response by the Territorial Commission. The process can be concluded with the recognition of refugee status, subsidiary protection status, or a rejection, against which the applicant may appeal.

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Streets of Paris 02
Paris
By Felipe Paiva
24 Oct 2015

Kids play soccer at a courtyard of a building in the outskirts of Paris.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 11
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
24 Oct 2015

Konate Adama, 18, is from Ivory Coast. Adama lost his parents during the Ivory Coast war (2011). He lived with his uncle, however when he decided to sell the land of the family, Adama and his brother refused and they had to escape. He left his country and in his journey crossed Burkina Faso, Niger until to Libya.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 08
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
24 Oct 2015

ASD Pagi home open was a tough game, mainly because the team had only been able to begin training one month before the beginning of the season.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 05
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
19 Oct 2015

Nigerian boys on the lay-by of the Centre. The day after, they had to play with the official football club Pagi. Sometimes the ASD Pagi football club organizes friendly games with another team composed of other migrants hosted in the same Immigration Centre.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 09
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
19 Oct 2015

18 year-­old Yousuf Lawal and 20 year-­old Victory Fgene both traveled to Italy via Libya from Nigeria. Victory'€™s mother was killed by his father, he said. Today, he is ASD Pagi's best player.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 17
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
17 Oct 2015

Part of the ASD Pagi team on the bench. They played at home and lost the game. The team began training only a month before the beginning of the regional football league season.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 22
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
17 Oct 2015

The team'™s matches draw in a mix of local and refugee spectators. For many of the migrants housed at the center, waiting is a common activity as €”they cannot€™ leave the center for more than two days at a time and cannot™ look for work until their applications for refugee or protected status are approved.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 24
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
16 Oct 2015

Part of the Nigerian team on the bench. Sometimes the ASD Pagi football club organizes friendly games with another team composed of others migrants hosted in the same Immigration Centre.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 23
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
15 Oct 2015

Asylum seekers on the field in Caniga, a suburb of Sassari, where they train and will play the championship match.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 01
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
15 Oct 2015

Many of the team members have traveled a long way to get here. Yusuf Lawal spent two months in transit to reach Italy.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 19
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
10 Oct 2015

Cinthya Collins nursing her baby during a match of Pagi's football club at the home field. Cinthya was hosted in an immigration centre in the South of Sardinia while she was pregnant and her husband Collins was living at the centre in Sassari. The baby will be born in Sassari this July and now they are living all together in Sassari. Collins is a player at Pagi's football club.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 03
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
10 Oct 2015

Scifo Mohamed Diallo inside the immigration centre. Scifo, 19 years-old, is from Conarky, Guinea. He lost his entire family during the stadium massacre in September 2009. The massacre was lead by military junta Captain Moussa Dadis Camara. Security forces raped, killed, and wounded protesters during a protest rally in the stadium. Scifo survived, living on the streets in Senegal fro two years until he decided to start the long journey to Libya. After two years working in Libya, he planned the journey by boat to Europe. Now, Scifo is waiting for the result of the Territorial Commission and plays in the Pagi football club.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 06
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
10 Oct 2015

Mousa Balde, 18 years old, from Senegal and Omar Kartu, 18 years old, from Gambia are members of the football club Asd Pagi. Mousa left his country for religious issues. All of his community is Muslim but his mother and Mousa are Christians and their lives were in danger. Like most people from Gambia, Omar has had political problems with the military government of Yahya Jammeh. His brother is in the military and did something the regime is angry with and they were no longer safe.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 07
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
10 Oct 2015

Mousa Balde, 18, fled Senegal because he said his family'€™s Christian faith was not tolerated in their predominantly Muslim community. Omar Kartu, also 18, fled the Gambia when his brother, a member of the national military, ran afoul of the country'€™s dictator Yahya Jammeh, he said.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 20
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
09 Oct 2015

Alhagie Amadou Jallow, 24 years old, was born in Gambia. One day, he was kidnapped by secret agents in Gambia, tortured, and accused of being part of the regime's opposition. Alhagie was kidnapped by secret agents in Gambia, tortured, and accused of being part of the regime's opposition. They had recorded a chat with a friend where he was talking about the regime. Gambia’s president Yahya Jammeh is frequently accused of human rights abuses, extra-judicial killings, torture and the muzzling of journalists. Jallo escaped and started the long journey to Libya and later to Europe. In Sicily he was accused of being a smuggler only because he was helping to save the lives of everyone on the boat. Jallo lived for some months in a jail in Sicily and was then released and transferred to the immigration centre in Sassari. Now, Jallo is waiting for the recognition of international protection, he knows a little Italian and he is helping the coach by translating in English, French, Mandinka and Wolof for all the players.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 18
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
09 Oct 2015

Asylum seekers outside the entrance of the immigration centre where almost 300 refugees seeking international protection are living. Most of them come from Sub-Saharan countries like Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal, Togo and Mali.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 10
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
08 Oct 2015

Vincenzo, a worker in the centre, is playing with some refugees in the atrium. All of the employees are well integrated with all 300 refugees of the centre.

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PAGI Migrant Football Team 12
Sassari; Sardinia
By Alice Sassu
07 Oct 2015

Frank Ugbaja, 21 years-old, from Nigeria. He lost his father and two sisters in a bomb attack by Boko Haram. Nigeria's militant Islamist group Boko Haram - which has caused havoc in Africa's most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations and abductions - is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. Frank escaped and started the long journey to Libya and later to Europe.

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DFB Pokal German Cup
Hamburg
By Ralf Falbe
10 Aug 2015

FC St. Pauli vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach, DFB Pokal 2015,Hamburg, Germany. Fans of Gladbach before the match.

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Life in Green and White: An 'Ultra's'...
Vilnius, Lithuania
By Nanook
02 Apr 2015

Text and Photos by Karolis Pilypas Liutkevicius

Vilniaus Žalgiris scores a goal in a football match against Klaipėdos Atlantas, two of Lithuania’s top teams. The fan section of the stadium erupts in a ferocious show of support. Some fans stumble down the stadium platform to greet the players face to face, others light flares. Everything is engulfed by smoke, the air fills up with loud chants. However, not everyone knows what happens after the echoes of the seemingly primordial shouts of football fans bounce off the walls of the stadium for the last time, when the last whistle is blown.

This is about trying to look through the seemingly negative façade of the “ultra,” a word used to describe some of the most hardcore sports fans on the planet.

“You could call it my second family,” says Jonas Šečkus, 36.

Jonas is a father of two young kids, he’s happily married, enjoys his job as a geologist and as a geology lecturer at Kaunas and Klaipėda universities. He has been a hardcore football fan since 2010.

“Yes, I’m an ultra. What’s bad about being so into something? And of course, just like in any family there are people who are, to put it lightly, a bit weirder, but there’s also really good guys. What keeps everyone in line is that we have boundaries that should not be crossed”, explains Jonas.

Politics of the game

According to Jonas, being a dedicated football fan in Lithuania is a different experience than being one in countries that are more well-known for the sport. Žalgiris’s budget consists of a smaller amount than what the country’s most beloved sport – basketball - and it’s two biggest teams get. Since a football club is more expensive to maintain than a basketball team, the level at which this sport is played in Lithuania is lower than what people are used to in more football-oriented countries.

This contributes to the fact that there aren’t as many fans as is usual within football fan clubs elsewhere. The “Pietų IV Ultras,” are therefore considered a local phenomenon. The fan club which consists of around 100 people is strikingly dedicated and well known among the population, mostly for their ferocity that is often publically associated with fanaticism. Since the Žalgiris club was established in 1965, it has been heavily associated with national history, and this makes most of the fans very patriotic, in some cases even ethnocentric.

“I don’t think you can separate any sport from politics. But since football has the strength of being the biggest sport in the world, politics are easily visible in it,” Jonas explains. Žalgiris football club has played a major part in Lithuanian history as a means for everyday people to express the independence and freedom of their country.

“Of course if some sort of pro-Russian ‘vatnik’ would suddenly appear among us in the stadium and start preaching his ideology, it would end badly for him,” says Jonas while eating sandwiches made by his wife. He talks about violence in a very nonchalant way, but with some thoughtful reservations. Without saying exactly how badly it would end for someone with such a political disposition, he makes it clear that it certainly wouldn’t be nice.

A day to day ultra

In his home and at work Jonas makes an effort to live a normal life. A courier arrives with a new child’s bike, colored green – the prefered colours of his football club - that he looks forward to giving to his daughter as a gift. At his office, Jonas is extremely concentrated on preparing an upcoming lecture and making the slides as interesting for his students as he can.

“I love teaching. It’s not about the money, it’s about the experience that this occupation gives you,” Jonas admits.

“My students know that I’m an ultra, but I don’t parade that in front of them. I usually don’t wear my colors to lectures or my office.”

Contrary to what most people would think about “ultras,” football fandom fits into Jonas’s life without any repercussions, he says.

“It’s a way for people to vent,” he reflects. “After their stressful jobs, or with the intention to get something off their minds, people come here with the same intentions as those who go to shooting clubs, only we go to watch football and support our team. I think it’s meaningful. From the sidelines it may look violent, since we shout and light pyrotechnics, but we shout so they can hear us. We burn flares so they can see us. That’s what support is about.”

Jonas is clearly not a fan of the media and how it gives ultras a negative connotation by portraying their lifestyle as violent.

“Media wants bad news, because it is an easier sell. If a conflict between the police and fans erupts, they won’t even look into who’s the culprit,” he says. “Of course the fans are the bad guys, because police have the status of untouchable public guardians. That’s a normal view, but since there’s a lot that’s wrong with police in most countries, Lithuania included, everything gets complicated.”

Under scrutiny

The police, on the other hand, have a different opinion about Jonas’ fan club. Always hovering around the part of the stadium where the fans gather, they constantly observe them as they arrive.

“Once I arrived at the stadium, and a police officer, who I didn’t even know, greeted me by name. They monitor us very closely, maybe even take pictures of us,” a young fan from the fanclub said. “They’re annoying.”

This timidly hostile view of the police seems to be shared by many of the fans. Before the game they often glance at the officers in a belligerent way and murmur some remarks about them.

“There were times when I was involved with some violent stuff, but I won’t talk about it,” Jonas says while putting on his jersey before heading to the stadium.

It’s time for one of the most important matches in the Lithuanian football league. Klaipėdos Atlantas and Vilniaus Žalgiris are set to play at the home stadium of the latter team.

After passing the security checkpoint just outside the stadium, Jonas enters the area of the stadium reserved for the fan club. He seems to feel at home here. The constant smile on his face while he meets his friends quickly changes to an expression full of excitement by the time the match starts. The chanting begins, flares are lit and everything fades into a mist of excitement and smoke.

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Football in Rio Favelas 10
Rio de Janeiro
By Luke Dennison
02 Apr 2015

Local kids pose outside of the football field in Morro do Salgueiro, Rio de Janeiro.

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Football in Rio Favelas 09
Rio de Janeiro
By Luke Dennison
02 Apr 2015

A young girl balances on the fence outside of the football field in Morro do Salgueiro, Rio de Janeiro.

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Football in Rio Favelas 07
Rio de Janeiro
By Luke Dennison
02 Apr 2015

A man bounces a football on his knee on Botafogo beach, Rio de Janeiro.

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Football in Rio Favelas 08
Rio de Janeiro
By Luke Dennison
02 Apr 2015

A boy from Morro do Salgueiro wears a necklace depicting Mother Mary.

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Football in Rio Favelas 05
Rio de Janeiro
By Luke Dennison
02 Apr 2015

A young boy strikes a pose outside of Botafogo metro.

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Football in Rio Favelas 04
Rio de Janeiro
By Luke Dennison
02 Apr 2015

A young player pauses mid game in Pavão Pavãozinho, Rio de Janeiro.

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Football in Rio Favelas 02
Rio de Janeiro
By Luke Dennison
02 Apr 2015

Washington leans against a fence at the football field in Pavão Pavãozinho, Rio de Janeiro.

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Lithuania ultras 06
Vilnius, Lithuania
By Nanook
02 Apr 2015

When Jonas is not working, he wakes up early to go to his office and polish up his presentations and material shown in lectures for his students.

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Lithuania ultras 07
Vilnius, Lithuania
By Nanook
02 Apr 2015

The smoking area is where Jonas spends his only breaks at work.

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Lithuania ultras 08
Vilnius, Lithuania
By Nanook
02 Apr 2015

"I don't see my colleague often" - Jonas describes why his office is always so empty.