Interview with ETNOLIGA founder

‘Etnoliga’ Intercultural football project (by “Fundacja dla Wolności” („Foundation for Freedom”)

Summary

As part of the ‘Living solidarity Alliance’ project, we had the opportunity to interview Krzysztof Jarymowicz, who is the co-founder of the Foundation ‘Fundacja dla Wolności’ and the coordinator of the ‘Etnoliga’ project. 

The aim of this project is to integrate people of various origins who currently live in Poland and to act against forms of discrimination and racism in local communities. ‘Etnoliga’ is about playing football together and organizing tournaments and championships. Anyone is welcome to join teams that bring together people of any gender or nationality. An important aspect of this initiative is team diversity. 

In our conversation, Krzysztof emphasized that sport is the most egalitarian and universal form of activity and a language that can cross borders and cultural barriers. Football as a team sport plays an integrating role between the participants, while promoting both a healthy lifestyle and the principles of honesty and fair play among players. The organization’s activities are also aimed at raising awareness and prevention of racist attacks that can be observed on the fields during professional sport events worldwide. Krzysztof has developed his charity work and initiatives over the years, and when asked about his motivation, he explained that he was motivated by his curiosity about the world and other people who come from different countries and cultures. 

Solidarity is a willingness to put yourself in the shoes of other people and act on their behalf. Many activities in our lives concern our own goals and the good of our family. Solidarity, on the other hand, means a willingness to get involved in matters affecting a wider group of people. As long as the conditions and possibilities allow, it is worth acting for the benefit of other people, who are often very different from us. At the same time, we can discover that we are united by common good and goals.

A short video about Etnoliga: https://www.fundacjadlawolnosci.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/UEFA-Grassroots-Awards-2020-Poland-v5_Subs.mp4?_=1

How solidarity is present in your work activities?

Basically everything that we do has something to do with solidarity. In the beginning, when we established the foundation, the main idea was to focus on groups that need solidarity: are poor or need other kinds of help. It was a strong motivator for us to do something.

And also my main project called Etnoliga is about inclusion of migrants through sport. It also started with my visit to the refugee center. This is the group that needs support and we should find a way to be close to these people and to offer them help as well as to fight with their exclusion.  So solidarity means for me mainly fighting for inclusion. 

How would you make solidarity even more present in your activities? What is needed

to make it even more present in practice?

In our organisation we do a lot of things to be in solidarity with others. If you work in an NGO in Poland it means you don’t earn so much money and you work hard for the other people. And it’s the beginning of being in solidarity with others:  that you lower your own expectations to do something for other people. So you are not focused on yourself, on your well-being, your family nor your neighbourhood but you think more about others. And you try to give back what you have received. Because I was lucky enough to receive a lot from my family and neighbourhood but also for my state- by people who paid the taxes and they paid my school, the roads, the infrastructure and people who helped to raise me, and so on. 

So I think that people should think about the world around us. This is I think the very beginning of solidarity when you lower your own expectations.  That we are not alone just for ourselves here, but we are here to be together with other people. They may be just across the street and close to yourself. They need help and we consider it. We should think about it.  This is very simple. If you see, there is something you can do about this, you consider doing it. 

How the activities of Etnoliga are designed and organized so that it strengthens the solidarity between the participants ?

So the first thing about solidarity is that we invite all people, no matter how rich they are, where they come from, the gender, the background so being open to other people is the key issue. The project is free of charge and everyone can participate, you don’t need money to play with us. Solidarity also means for us that every group, every team should be open to other members and other people who need friends and other kinds of support. 

In Etnoliga,  every team is mixed and composed of people from different countries with different needs– so you don’t stay only with your close friends. You also need to have women in your team. We are mixing people by letting them play football together for free and it’s for me the way of thinking about solidarity in sports. 

And when we talk about solidarity in sports, do you have any nice moments to share with us? 

I cannot think about anything special, but every weekend when we play with Etnoliga I feel empowered by these emotions of solidarity.  Because people come there to play football, maybe just for half an hour, but actually they stay the whole day. To be with others. And often they do something more than playing football. For example, in a week we are having a sports day for the refugee people. Every team will prepare something for them to play some sports, to talk, to prepare some food and offer other kinds of support. 

How do you think we can strengthen the solidarity in the society or to teach children to be more in solidarity with others? 

There’s so many aspects. You are brought up by parents and by the education system, so it starts there and it’s not a single agent that can make you more in solidarity. If in education you focus on common projects and common goals and if you are taught to work together it makes much more sense than if you are put against one another and to compete.  Thus, to really support solidarity to encourage students to collaborate. It brings solidarity into life and into your heart. 

(Interview recorded by ArteEgo)

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