Wanted in Rome Junior article by Lucie Dumont and Laith Zehni, students at St Stephen's International School, Rome.
AS Roma defender and Manchester United legend Chris Smalling was invited to talk to the students of St Stephen’s International School about equality in sports, his vegan diet, and, of course, football, on 2 December.
All students, teachers and faculty were invited by Tackling Inequality, a student-led organisation at St Stephen’s run by Lucie Dumont, Raffaella Jarvis and Laith Zehni, which advocates for equality in sports. Smalling’s presence was greatly welcomed, as the cheers that erupted when he walked into our small chapel were overwhelming.
He answered many questions from both the panel and the audience, offering a rich insight on his responsibilities as a football player; from advocating for social issues to supporting a lifestyle that is healthy and good for the environment.
Having been a vegan for several years, Smalling expressed how this lifestyle change was extremely beneficial to him as a football player, particularly when healing from injuries such as tendonitis, and how even some of his teammates were showing interest in the diet. With the looming force of climate change upon us, knowing that even professional athletes have turned to vegan diets shows how it really is a fulfilling and nurturing diet that could only benefit us and our planet.
Football Beyond Borders
Furthermore, Smalling discussed his personal involvement in Football Beyond Borders which is a non-profit organisation that works with highschools across London, Kent, Essex, and north west of England.
“FBB supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who are passionate about football but disengaged at school in order to help them finish school with the skills and grades to make a successful transition into adulthood. We do this by providing long-term, intensive support, built around relationships and young people’s passions, in the classroom and beyond.”
His involvement in this is what particularly inspired us to invite him, as advocating for social issues in sports to combat class, race, and gender disparities is what Tackling Inequality stands for. Sports teams are communities where differences should be either ignored or congratulated, as the camaraderie involved in playing on sports teams is difficult to replicate anywhere else.
Unfortunately, in our society, differences are often seen as detriments, even in the professional world. When asked about the problem with racism in the football world, Smalling expressed the importance of the younger generation in playing a role of spreading love and equality. He recalled how when he was younger, people looked to the older generation for solutions. Now he looks to us to send forth compassion, hence his involvement with FBB. Discussing social issues like these and what we can do about them with a professional football player gave us a great sense of encouragement that our club could actually make a difference.
When the time came for audience questions, the typical inquiries were made about his role as a football player including whether he still feels nervous when going out on that big field every match (yes) or, of course, who the best player he has ever played with (Paul Scholes) or against (Didier Drogba in his prime).
Having Smalling at our school was a privilege we were extremely excited to welcome. We consider it a victory and a step forward for Tackling Inequality, as we only plan on doing more. Spreading awareness is only the first step, as we hope to make something of this awareness.
In the future, we are planning another meeting with Cecilia Andren Nyström, founder of Futebol da forca, an organisation whose mission is “building long-lasting systemic impact by engaging leaders and role models as football coaches and maximising their potential in developing girls' agency and leading change in their local communities.”
In addition to giving a presentation to the school, Cecilia will also run workshops for our football coaches and train the girl’s varsity team for a week. We are also in the process of organising a trip to Nairobi where we would collaborate with numerous local NGOs who share our dream of eradicating discrimination and inequality in sports.
Tackling Inequality is a club founded by three seniors and a teacher at St Stephen’s with a strong passion for football. The idea for the club originated early last summer before the Women’s Worldcup when a report was published revealing the staggering difference between the prize money for the winner of the women’s World Cup ($30 million) and the men’s World Cup ($400 million).
The students decided to take a stance by bringing awareness to sexism in sports and the crucial role the youth plays in making a difference. Today the club deals with a wide range of matters linked to sports and is looking for innovative ideas to help it on its mission. If you are interested or know anyone who may be interested in joining Tacking Inequality because they feel they want to help make a difference by either participating or donating please contact us at email@example.com.
WANTED IN ROME JUNIOR: For young writers and artists
Wanted in Rome accepts creative contributions from students in all international schools in Rome. Articles on topics related to either the student’s life in Rome or their school projects can be submitted by their class teachers. The work should be no more than 1,000 words and we also accept illustrations. Teachers who would like to propose a project can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Chris Smalling visits St Stephen's School Rome
Via Aventina, 3, 00153 Roma RM, Italy