Pagi: the Migrant Football Team in Italy

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ShortDoc by Alice Sassu and Francesco Pistilli
A positive story of sports and integration coming from Sardinia, Sassari. Boys who fled from wars, hunger and poverty have ended up playing with a ball.

In Sardinia, one of the poorest regions in Italy, migrants are welcomed at immigration centres as a response to their emergency condition. The former "Hotel Pagi", located in the industrial area of the city, is now the "Centro di Prima Accoglienza di Predda Niedda", directed by the ASD Cooperative. Pierpaolo Cermelli, Fabiana Denurra and a cultural mediator, named Ali Bouchouata, have decided to create a football team to motivate the young boys and to promote their social integration. The "ASD Pagi" team, coached by Mauro Fanti, faces now the final stages of the championship, in the second regional division.

For the first time in the Italian history, an immigration centre gets approval from the Italian Football Game Federation to participate in a regional football league with a team entirely comprised by asylum seekers, waiting for a residence permission.

The centre homes approximately three hundred young people from different countries in sub-Saharan Africa (such as Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal, Togo, Mali). Some of these people ran away from family feuds, religious conflicts and dictatorial governments. Some others found themselves without a family, or are simply looking to change their "luck". But they all dream with starting a new life in Europe.

Pending on the resolution of the Territorial Commission, these asylum seekers follow the legal steps of a process that will finish with one the following possible outcomes: a recognition of their refugee status, a subsidiary or humanitarian protection, or their deportation. The bureaucracy is way too slow, and the majority of them must wait at least two or three years to know their fate. Meanwhile, some of them try to defy the football teams of one of the poorest regions of Italy.


  1. soundbite (Italian )
    The judicial hearing will be in Cagliari between the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, and will decide if he has right to obtain the International Protection.
  2. soundbite (Italian )
    Piepaolo Cermelli , Director of the centre di "Prima Accoglienza di Predda Niedda" (Sassari) : No immigration centre has ever asked for permission to participate in an official championship of the second category with a team composed by asylum seekers, all belonging to a centre. This is the case of the boys who are guests of the centre, which are waiting to know the result of the Territorial Commission for the recognition of asylum. This is the novelty, the uniqueness of the initiative.
  3. soundbite (Italian )
    Piepaolo Cermelli , Director of the centre di "Prima Accoglienza di Predda Niedda" (Sassari) : Among the various programs carried out there, are those which aim at understanding how the boys would better integrate into the society. We want to design integration projects, in order to fill up the large gap existing in this service, since for the first six months the young boys cannot work. They can do anything, but waiting for the opinion of the Territorial Commission.
  4. soundbite (Italian )
    Asylum seekers at school of Italian : I do not have a blue pen, "therefore" I use red pen, "Therefore" I use a red pen or "so" I use red pen. I was, you were, he was,
  5. soundbite (english)
    A asylum seeker : My name is Alhagie Amadou Jallow, I’m from Gambia West Africa, because of my political problem that make me move to save my life, but before that I was having the good life in my country, I got the job, I was working like supermarket worker, but I still I love my country more any place in this world. And because of this, I find myself in a long adventure when make my way reach here, which it was not my intention come to Europe, I was just move to safe my life. In this journey, I from Senegal crossing to Mali, to Burkina Faso and Niger. I get experience from the check-point, the borders, they catch you, you must to pay to cross, they regard if you have the documents, they want just that you pay. When I entered in Libia, the first time I entered in Libya, I heard gun shot in the air, ta,ta, and when I say: what it is?, he says: this place is like this! So, I get the big experience, you know, I saw many things, stories like movies in my brains, always these pictures in my eyes that I can never forget.
  6. soundbite (Italian )
    Mauro Fanti (Coach): When the opponents attack, we must always remain four against two. Four defenders against two forwards of them. If the midfielder joins the attacking players, we should not be here, but we have to be attached to our defense.
  7. soundbite (Italian )
    Piepaolo Cermelli , Director of the centre di "Prima Accoglienza di Predda Niedda" (Sassari) : Sunday is the first home game. I'm excited, perhaps even more than boys. I hope they will win, but for the only reason that they need to prove themselves to be a team. When they arrived today, hearing them talking about the team, when one of the greatest difficulties has been precisely to reconcile their national differences, to equate Christians an Muslims... Now we realize that the football is an instrument of integration. Within the football team the goal is to play well and try to score. This is something that excites me.