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Milan TV host Licia Virdis (middle) mediates Yunus Musah (right) and Christy Grimshaw (left), as well as other players, to discuss inclusivity, equity and inclusion in professional soccer.(Photo courtesy of AC Milan S.p.A.)

Wantagh Students Learn From Soccer Star

Exploring racism on International Day of Education

**Author’s note: the terms “soccer” and “football” may be used interchangeably throughout this article and are referring to the same sport. Please note that this is not an article on American football.

Footballer Yunus Musah spoke to students online about his experiences with racism. (Photo credit Yunus Musah on Instagram)

During this year’s International Day of Education, students from Wantagh High School and Success Academy Charter Schools had a unique opportunity to converse with AC Milan players Christy Grimshaw and Yunus Musah as part of the Rossoneri’s educational initiative, All the Colours of Sport. The project began a few years ago and revolves around awareness-raising on themes such as tolerance and inclusivity. Over 2,000 pupils are involved each year and they get to interact with experts, players, former pros and directors.

Wantagh students were able to have pivotal discussions with Musah about his personal experiences with racism, multiculturalism, and the culture of inclusivity in football. Also highlighted was the importance of combining sports and education, and Musah was able to respond to students’ inquiries.

In addition to Wantagh High School and Success Academy Charter Schools, students from Cardinal Pole Catholic School in London, UK, and beneficiaries of the Sport for Change program from Fondazione Milan in Nairobi, Kenya (with Alice for Children), and educators from Kampala, Uganda (with Fondazione Italia Uganda), were also present, making this a truly global event.

Recent occurrences and the continued racial unrest of the U.S. make events like these more pressing than ever. During the Serie A round, an incident sparked conversations about racism as a current and tangible issue in the world of football. “We’re used to obviously having away fans and them not liking you and stuff, but when it becomes personal, racial, it really affects you deep down,” Musah said in an interview with CNN. In the first half of a Serie A match between AC Milan and Udinese, Milan players walked off the pitch in support of their goalkeeper Mike Maignan. “All of a sudden we saw that our goalkeeper, Mike, was coming across, telling the referee that there were some people making monkey chants and just being abusive to him behind the goal,” Musah recalled in his CNN interview. “Obviously, we’re in an away stadium as well, so the majority of fans from the other team — it was very intense for Mike to be receiving all that abuse from so many fans.”

Maignan’s teammates, alongside thousands of fans, rallied in support of the player, and five fans were issued a lifetime ban for ‘discrimination towards AC Milan player Mike Maignan.’
“It’s really sad to see things like what happened last Saturday continue to occur,” Musah noted during the All Colours discussion. “These actions must have consequences; something needs to be done. Our reaction on the field was right: it gave us the confidence that we are a united group, emerging from that evening stronger than before and with a victory.”

Thankfully, Musah has been encouraged by his general experiences as a professional soccer star. “Throughout my career, football has taught me values such as patience and respect. Patience helps you understand that you shouldn’t be discouraged because, by working hard, you can achieve your goals. Respect is fundamental, especially when sharing daily life with over twenty different individuals in the locker room,” he said.

Midfielder Christy Grimshaw was also present to weigh in on themes of inclusivity in sport. “Throughout my career, I had the privilege of playing football and earning a degree at the same time,” she shared. “An experience that taught me to be patient and work hard. In a locker room like ours, with players coming from every part of the world, it is crucial to educate each other about each other’s culture, asking as many questions as possible to better understand one another and having great respect.”

A wall print in support of Mike Maignan. Its creators said, “This wall print is more than a simple work of art: it is a powerful message, an invitation to action, symbol of resistance and hope. It’s time to stop racism, not only in sport, but in every aspect of life.” (Photo credit Wallprinters.it on Instagram)

Wantagh students were able to benefit from the truly unique perspective of these professional athletes and many more, and hopefully now have a better understanding of ways in which racism can interfere with sports, and the role we must play to keep them equitable, fair and fun for everyone.

About All the Colours of Sport
“All the Colours of Sport” consists of a series of meetings between AC Milan ambassadors and secondary school students. Through this initiative, AC Milan wants to contribute to the remarkable work carried out by teachers in Italy and around the world, aiming to raise awareness among new generations about values and a culture of inclusivity, preparing them for life in a global society. The initiative was launched in the 2020/21 season, and it engages annually between 1,000-2,000 boys and girls in a constructive dialogue on topics such as the inclusive culture of the football locker room, the importance of balancing study with sports practice, respect for rules and others, and much more.

About AC Milan
Founded in 1899 in Milan, Italy, AC Milan is one of the most iconic and historic brands in global sports. In its nearly 125-year history, AC Milan’s on-the-pitch success has been marked by 7 Champions League titles, 19 Serie A titles, 5 UEFA Super Cup and a FIFA World Cup. The Club currently plays its home games at San Siro Stadium in Milan. AC Milan has offices in Milan and Dubai. For more information, visit www.acmilan.com.

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