A great success for the national conference of the FIRE+ project in Belgium!

Thursday 03 November 2022

A great success for the national conference of the FIRE+ project in Belgium!

On 12 October 2022, the FIRE+ team made a stop at the Royal Belgian Football Federation (RBFA) to organise the 3rd national conference in the framework of the project. After a successful pilot intervention in the morning, the afternoon discussions focused on the topic of unaccompanied foreign minors. A look back at a very enriching day


This morning of the 12 of October started early, at 8:30 on the RBFA facilities in Tubize. The members of the consortium put on their football boots for an unforgettable moment: experiencing the FIRE+ project on the field. One of the FIRE+ laureates, the organisation Younited Belgium, was organising its inclusive football tournament to which we had the honour of being invited. Players from teams affiliated to the “Younited” league were raring to start the tournament in a friendly atmosphere. There was no competitive spirit on the field: the most important thing was to enjoy our favourite sport and connect with people from different backgrounds. The matches were played 4 against 4, for two times 7 minutes.

After a quick shower and a convivial lunch, everyone gathered in the RBFA auditorium. After a few words on the unfolding of the conference, the floor was given to Sophie LOPEZ – in charge of the FIRE+ project within the think tank Sport and Citizenship. This speech was an opportunity to recall that the FIRE+ project has the ambition to mobilise the world of football to face the crisis of reception and inclusion of refugees and migrant populations that the European Union has been experiencing since 2015. Marvin OLAWAIYE – Football Social Responsibility Advisor at the ACFF then addressed the issue of the affiliation of refugee populations to the RBFA. Among other things, , he reminded us that the affiliation of an unaccompanied minor was part of the exemptions that allowed the federation to exempt itself from presenting the case to the FIFA Football Court for validation. The floor was then given to Marine POLIART. The head of Younited’s activities in the Walloon region explained the philosophy of the association to the audience. Younited offers football and, more recently, cycling activities for “survival experts”, who are people facing various sources of vulnerability.


After a short break, the panel discussion on “Inclusion of young refugees and unaccompanied minors in and through football: needs, barriers, and successes” took place. Moderated by Albrecht Sonntag, this panel discussion, gave an overview of the situation in Belgium with 4 speakers from different backgrounds:

  •  Mouâd SALHI, Deputy Director of the fedasil centre in Mouscron
  • Maximilien ZIMMERMANN, Clinical psychologist at the Solentra association
  • Christine ROISIN, unaccompanied minors coordinator at the SOS Jeunes association
  • Pierre WILLEM, President of JUNA Foot, organiser of the “Footons nous des préjugés – Balle Au pied” (let’s get rid of prejudice by kicking balls) tournament

There is much to be learned from these exchanges with our speakers. We noted the point that was made on the fact that football clubs were not well informed or supported in their initiatives to welcome unaccompanied minors. The profile of an unaccompanied minor, in all aspects, is a bit specific: such a young refugee is particularly vulnerable. The administrative procedures, even if they are not unbearable, must also be better explained. When clubs are better aware and informed, they are more willing and enthusiastic about welcoming young refugees into their teams. Furthermore, for the young refugee, joining a local football team has a lot of benefits: meeting new people, making “new friends”, learning the local language and social codes of the host community in a latent way, to name a few.

We will take home the fact that there is a real imperative to better facilitate the “connections” between the reception centres and shelters as well as social workers with the football clubs. A “socio-sport” mediator to support the football clubs in their projects and to be a kind of mediator with the reception centres is a solution that should be considered to facilitate the welcoming of young refugees in local football.

In one intense but yet enriching day, we managed to acquire a lot of knowledge for the conceptualisation of the new FIRE MOOC modules. Our next stop will be Frankfurt in February 2023 at the German Football Federation to shed light on the issues of the inclusion of women and girls and on volunteering. Stay tuned.