Considering that most of you are aware of the topic, thousands of people from less developed countries of Africa, Middle East and Asia, hand in their hard earned savings to traffickers and leave their families behind in an attempt to make it to the greener pastures of Europe. All of them make the journey – many in weakened conditions but in upbeat mood and some in body bags, which is the harsh reality – all this for a better life for themselves and their families.
Those who make it, now considered as refugees or immigrants, are put in camps as they wait for their asylum seeking application to get approved or receive orders to be deported.
Many of those have successfully made it past the camps however find it difficult to integrate into the society due to a struggle to get past the language barrier and/or find decent work opportunities.
In the southern Italian town of Rosarno, a local priest, Robert Meduri, in an attempt to ease them off their hardships, decided to unite the newcomers, mostly from African countries such as Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Senegal, on a football pitch.
Hence, in 2013, the Koa Bosco was formed. The Koa stands for Knights of the Altar.
Since its creation, the team has gone through some optimistic moments, having first being recognized by the Italian Football Federation and secondly drawing the attention of Juventus legend – Pavel Nedved – who invited the team to visit the Juventus Arena.
However, the journey has not been easy for the players. For a country notorious for its racial abuse, the notion of discrimination in Rosarno is always lingering either on or off the pitch. In fact, an on-pitch scuffle that broke out during a match in March led to a few players hit by stones thrown from the stands. Moreover, shooting of two African workers in Rosarno back in 2010 led to two days of riots, resulting in 53 people being injured.
While Koa Bosco hardly profits from monetary contributions, some locals, who have opened up to the idea of seeing them around, have aided the players with blankets and warm clothing. Off the pitch, the players make a living working on farms and citrus groves while residing in a government-run camp of shipping containers.
Though life’s about basic survival at this point for Koa Bosco, players can take some pleasure knowing that all their hard work during the season resulted in a promotion to the Second Categoria next season – basically the 8th tier of the Italian league system. And hopefully it does not stop there.