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Sport as a (dis)educational tool: the case of the soccer fan in Genoa and of Simone Biles

If I type “sport educational tool” on Google, the first of the many similar results that come out are two articles entitled “Education and sport: an inseparable combination” and “Sport as an educational and social tool”. Is it really like that?

By Beatrice Jennifer Tagliabue

When I read "Education and sport: an inseparable combination", I feel a bit like smiling and shaking my head.

It makes me laugh because only this last week the fans at the Genoa stadium sang a not exactly "goliardic" chorus towards a girl who was mowing the field of the stadium shouting at her "we'll shave her" as if it were a game, while in the United States, the Olympic champion Simone Biles is denouncing, along with other gymnasts, the harassment suffered by her and 500 other athletes by doctor Larry Nassar, also accusing the Olympic Committee, the American Federation and even the FBI for trying to cover up the violence becoming accomplices.

Parallel to all this, only on Monday 13 September in Italy two femicides were committed.

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If in the eyes of someone these episodes would seem like three completely different events, unfortunately to mine they are easily linked by a terrifying thread that makes one the consequence of the other, like a climax: you start joking like a game ( so much "they are just words", so much "everyone laughed", right?), it often happens that the "game" turns into real violence up to the most extreme cases in which the victim is killed.

Tell me that I am exaggerated, but these are all things we have already seen, the beginning of a story that repeats itself.

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It was a mix of amazement, nervousness, anger, but also wonder what I felt when I read some comments under Cathy La Torre's post (@avvocathy on Instagram) about the Genoa-Inter pre-match chorus.

In a few words, they say, if the intention was to make people laugh and the girl in question smiled and said nothing, then why unleash a useless controversy, you know what stadium choirs are like.

Read between the lines, the message that passes is that the choir is justified because they are fans in the curve at the stadium (you know how the people are at the stadium), so not only should we not make controversy, but perhaps we should also have expected it.


And even scarier is those who comment by writing to "stop" because the girl was laughing and seemed amused after all. As if she knew what it feels like to have a crowd singing in fun on their private parts during work.

Maybe the girl who cut the grass was really amused, or she was masking her embarrassment and shame. She will probably continue to do her job and maybe she will repeat another episode of the kind: it will not be a "goliardic" chorus of people who, you know, are at the stadium and have fun, to stop her.

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A post shared by Cathy La Torre (@avvocathy)

Simone Biles also continued to compete after the first few bars, which later became harassment, but also after the "timid" accusations in 2018, until this summer, at just 24 years old and a golden career in front of her, she decided to retire from the Tokyo Olympics. An "extreme" gesture to finally make noise after the first accusations in 2015 against the same doctor by his partner Mckayla Maroney. Because it is Simone who stopped today, not Nassar whose file the FBI had filed at the time.

So if sport were really an educational and social means, then episodes like these must not be justified, hidden and indifferently left to pass.

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In Italy, abuses in the world of sport are still a taboo: they don't talk about it, they don't make the news. Yet according to Daniela Simonetti, journalist who founded the first Italian association against sexual abuse in sport in 2019, there would be more than 300 cases, she tells it in the book "Impunità di Gregge" published at the beginning of 2021. The victims? Boys and girls who play mainly football and volleyball, without excluding other sports.

Accusations involving the same sports, the same coaches, the same associations and federations that are committed to fighting violence against women and that support campaigns to raise awareness of harassment and abuse.

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And therefore, referring to the episode of the Ferraris stadium in Genoa, I wonder what sense it makes for champions like Totti, De Rossi and Marchisio, idols of many boys, to take the field in a friendly match dedicated to the fight against violence against women (it was May 2021) if then Sunday's story is justified with “it was just a goliardic chorus, you know how the fans are in the corners”.

I wonder what sense it makes to play a game with a red mark on the cheek to raise awareness among the public, mainly male, and fight violence against women, if then everything ends with "even the girl smiled and seemed amused"

Although being denigrating and offensive, what is condemned most is not so much the episode itself, as it is actually a vulgar chorus that does not lead to anything physical, but the attitude with which it is belittled and justified a it had to be like that.

Sometimes a simple apology or a mea culpa is not enough, but it is still is something.