Fans Power: Uniting to combat hate speech in Albanian Football
January 19, 2024
Hate speech spreads through various facets of our lives, from online platforms to public spaces and beyond. The consequences of hate speech cannot be overstated. Words, when used as weapons, wield a profound and enduring impact on people and communities. Beyond immediate clashes of opinions, hate speech possesses the ability to inflict deep emotional wounds, erode self-esteem, and fracture the social fabric.
In response, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Albania have partnered with the Albanian Sport Science Association (ASSA) to leverage the power of sports in the fight against hate speech.
This partnership, in the context of the regional UN initiative "Youth 4 Inclusion, Equality, and Trust," funded by the UN Peacebuilding Fund, seeks to foster social interaction, tolerance, and combat hate speech among youth fan clubs, particularly between “Tirana” and “Partizani” football federations.
There is a longstanding and challenging relationship between fans of “Partizani” and “Tirana” sports clubs. This relationship, rooted in decades of competition between two of the country's most popular and successful sports clubs, has spilled into stadiums, streets, and the digital space.
The spread of hate speech and toxic behavior online and offline between these fan clubs has reached alarming levels, prompting this new initiative "Fans Power: Uniting for Respect."
The initiative aims to break down barriers and build bridges between young fans of rival clubs through educational and team-building activities. Raising awareness and educating young fans about the consequences of hate speech are crucial aspects. Educational sessions will strive to raise awareness among youth about the impact of their words, with a parallel effort to encourage diversity, inclusivity, and gender equality within fan communities and sports-related activities.
In a dynamic approach, the initiative will feature social gatherings and team-building events, facilitating exchange visits between the Football Club Tirana and Partizani fan communities. Emphasizing a peer-to-peer approach to learning, this initiative empowers youth to positively influence their peers, fostering the sharing of experiences.
Over four months, activities encompass bringing together youth fan teams, facilitating visits to football club homes, hosting fan club gatherings, staging a Derby Match Stadium event, and empowering youngsters to disseminate their experiences.
This approach aims to create a lasting impact on fan dynamics and mitigate the adverse effects of hate speech through fostering understanding and unity.
"Fans Power: Uniting for Respect" is a pioneering initiative set to reshape the dynamics between rival fan clubs. By promoting positive cooperation, the initiative aims to reduce the incidence of hate speech, especially in stadiums and online spaces. The initiative aims to set a precedent for fostering a culture of inclusivity and tolerance among diverse fan audiences, offering a blueprint for replication in the broader sports community.
Through the unifying power of sports, the initiative also aims to foster a more harmonious and respectful future.