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I regala dei fava
April 27, 2023
Social Justice

Sport and Politics, the role of a basketball pitch in creating community

The voice of Anthony Chima, interviewed by Michela Grasso, SPAGHETTIPOLITICS

Q: How would you introduce yourself?

A: «I'm Anthony Chima, raised in Venice and a bit around the world, now living in Bologna. I am very interested in anti-racism, community building and playing basketball. All interests that have to do with staying in touch with others, and understanding the problems we experience on a daily basis».

Q: Among your various projects, there is one in particular that is very interesting, Regaz dei Fava. Do you want to tell us about it?

A: «Regaz dei Fava is a community of basketball players in Bologna. We are a mix of boys and girls, but not only, also retired people and young professionals, in short, people united by the love of basketball. The pitch where we are is near Bologna’s train station; together with other guys we decided to give it a more structured shape and re-develop it. In this way we protect not only the people who come to play, but also the needs of the space, the garden and the residents of the neighborhood. The basketball pitch is an active presidium, where people with different backgrounds hang out. We try to create a space where it is possible to reclaim an everyday life that would otherwise be marginalized. The pitch is 80% attended by males, and has become a place where young men meet to compete through sport, to understand each other and feel good together».

Q: How many years has Regaz dei Fava existed?

A: «The association has existed for three years, since the beginning of the pandemic. There was a call from the Municipality of Bologna to redevelop some public sports spaces, and we carried forward our idea. We didn't just want to redevelop the pitch and leave, we wanted to build a specific project that would match the pre-existing reality of the neighborhood. The camp has existed for a long time and has been a hang out place for the Filipino community of Bologna for many years. By participating in the project, they have brought an active presence that has helped attract other people who like to play basketball, and are still frequent visitors today. The Fava area is considered to be at high risk of degradation, but this reputation of risk and danger has given even more fuel to the boys, pushing them to give their best. When we arrived, the pitch was abandoned, but now it is busy every day. The neighborhood and the kids needed this space to get together».

Q: How does a pitch “create community”?

A: «With awareness, and with people capable of understanding the space’s value. For example, at the Fava we want to guarantee meritocratic access to everyone, we don't want to alienate those who are new. In order to play, you have to make free throws, when you score, you earn the right to play. We want to create participation and encourage everyone to join, not waiting for someone else to do it for them.

Furthermore, at the Favas there is a strong philosophy of hospitality, this is because many of the people who have created this space are people with a migration background. This has created a spirit of sharing fundamental to the identity of the Fava. To create community you need to have the right spirit and attention to what you want to reclaim. Through initiatives, we have consolidated the community, its values, our way of being together

The space is dedicated to the memory of Graziella Fava, a woman who died in an attack in Bologna. We have decided to keep this name to keep her memory alive.

Q: On your Instagram profile you can see several videos and photos of the Fava boys and girls. In particular, I was struck by that of Adriana, a Swiss girl who talks about her experience on the pitch, talking about you and youcommitment. Would you like to tell us briefly about her?

A: «Adriana is a girl who has brought so much value to the Favas, thanks to a feminist attention and provocation. Being a space mainly frequented by boys, it is inevitable that there is mainly male attention. Instead, thanks to people like Adriana, a different perspective also comes in, she provokes the boys into confrontation, into thinking. It creates beautiful exchanges that certainly improve the space even more».

Q: How did the neighborhood react to the pitch? Did they welcome you well or badly?

A: «I would say that they didn't have a choice, also because we are very good as a group. We are super nice. Everyone was very interested, and they also saw many kids who attend the pitch grow over time. Working with the Favas was an action guided from below, by the need to find a space to gather. Many of the boys have a different social and cultural education, having foreign origins, and therefore different cultural values. For example, in Nigeria, if I see people older than me, I greet them. If at the Favas I see a lady walking her dog, I greet her: "good morning madam". 

Maybe it may seem strange, because in Italy people are not used to greeting each other without knowing each other. Thus a pleasant, sharing atmosphere was created. Slowly we too have become inhabitants of the neighborhood, the pitch is now our home. You find people who attend it from two in the afternoon until eleven in the evening, there is always a different way to be together, also to involve the residents. When we do the summer tournaments, we borrow the tables to set up from local businesses, then we go to them to eat, we bring them some business. We try to get everyone involved and create a sense of community".

Q: Where did the desire to get involved and create the Regaz dei Fava community come from?

A: «At the base, there is the desire for reclamation, not only limited to social spaces, but also to culture and politics. I am part of that ever growing number of people who want to create spaces where they can exercise their need to express themselves, where they can find answers to their needs. This isn't my first basketball community, but it's definitely the one I care about the most because here I've poured a lot of my sweat and taken on more responsibility. Throughout Italy there are similar communities, and even in Bologna itself we are not the only ones, in fact we often collaborate, coming together to carry on a common idea».

Q: How does sport, in the case of the Fava boys, become political?

A: «Sport becomes politics, without "doing politics". A space can take on a political role when social agents, people not recognized by the state, participate in it. One of our main partners is a Filipino boy, he works 8 hours a day and comes to the pitch as soon as he can. His presence here, his voice, are fundamental for the younger boys. Standing here, from 4pm to 10pm, he does unpaid social welfare work, protecting kids, becoming a mentor. Thanks to his presence, many kids stay here, but where would they be if there weren't a pitch? Maybe on the street, and what would they do there? At the Favas there are these forms of social protection that take on a political connotation when those who attend the campetto do a job that is useful to the city. We are here every day of the year, 365 out of 365, even with snow, rain and wind. If we weren't here, being an area at high risk of degradation, worse could happen. Our presence is a place of concrete activism. We are black, Filipino, young, students, newly retired, people who often live a precarious and marginalized daily life.

It is important for us to create a link with this space, which is why we go to municipal assemblies, we talk about what we do for the city and for the neighborhood. We are not simply a sport association, but we have an added value that we want to share and carry on».

Q: How do the municipality and traditional politics see this space?

«The Municipality more or less encourages us to carry on with the project, but they should do even more. They could recognize and pay for the social assistance work carried out on the pitch by many kids. Many people get a degree to do this job, and then come here to ask us how to do a project with us. Often in our cities and communities, and also in other spaces where I hang out, there is not a knowledge transfer between the older and the younger ones, that mentoring work. This possibility exists at the Favas, the little ones receive help, their needs and curiosities are not diminished. Often politics has no respect and consideration for projects like this, traditional politics is absent and uses old formulas, which do not respond to the needs of the historical period in which we live. There are tools to get closer to us, it would be enough to talk to us to establish a contact and understand our needs".

Q: What prompted you to stay in Bologna and in Italy to build your own project, and not to go abroad?

A: «I'm here because leaving would have meant leaving room for someone who could have done worse. As I carried this project forward, I realized how feasible it was. Staying is a way to rediscover the potential of one's own territory and what one can do there. Very often people leave because they can't find what they want, and at the same time they never had the chance or the tools to create what they were looking for. Then, when you have the tools, it can happen that spaces are missing, and everything becomes more complicated. For me there were no doubts, I wanted to stay in Italy and Bologna, I knew I could do what I'm doing now. Also, having been carrying on this project for years, I know that I can take it to other places as well and have a similar impact».

Q: What do you see in the future of Regaz dei Fava?

A: «We want to consolidate what we have started, without competing with anyone, without replacing anyone and without even comparing ourselves to anyone. We periodically carry out initiatives, for example the Fava Film Festival in the summer, when we show films related to sport on the pitch. This is how another way of experiencing space is created, even for those who don't play basketball. We want to continue to create as much as possible with what the city and the neighborhood offer».

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