The global Covid 19 pandemic and the lockdown of many areas brought some activities to a halt in recent months, while others managed to adapt to new health and safety requirements and continue or restart projects. Futsal is one of those sports included in the European BRIDGES program for social inclusion. Tortosa has been practicing it since 2020 with students from Remolins and La Mercè schools.
Futsal (similar to five-a-side soccer) in Tortosa could finally take place again with all the necessary arrangements and measures and is organized by the Futsal Club Tortosa. "One of the most important tasks of our sports club is social work. As the coordinator of the club and the objectives of our board, we are happy to offer any possible social help to the local society. Our participation gives us a sense of satisfaction. Especially because we work with children," explains Cisco Folqué, coordinator of the Tortosa Futsal Club.
The students stayed within their class groups and had to follow the health guidelines. All showed great interest, despite the long interruptions due to the pandemic. "We asked the students if we should organize games where both schools meet and play together. All of them answered in the affirmative. And we are happy that we feel we are doing a good job if the young people want to continue participating in the project," Folqué added.
This is precisely one of the main points of the BRIDGES project: social cohesion and inclusion in the community, which are promoted through such activities. When the activity resumed in 2021, all the students who had participated since the beginning of 2020 chose to continue. "When you create an extracurricular activity like this, everyone wants to participate. They love the social contact with other young people, the relationships and cultural exchanges, and they forget for a while any social or economic difficulties from home," Folqué explains.
As the futsal coordinator points out, the children who participate in the project probably can't afford the fees required to join other sports clubs. BRIDGES offers them the opportunity to play a sport. "In some cultures, girls are not allowed to play soccer. But if we do it through the school, there is no longer that problem. At the two schools, there is a mix of cultures, which could be problematic. But doing activities like this together shows the kids that they're all the same and can get along well."
In this sense, the BRIDGES project has been an extremely useful tool for social cohesion and interculturalism. Through volunteering and sports and cultural activities. It has also developed a sense of solidarity and respect among the participants. "Our goal is a society where everyone is equal and has the same opportunities. Projects like BRIDGES help us achieve that. If you can help children get along better in schools in outlying districts, it also makes it easier for parents to integrate and for social and cultural groups to get along. All of this promotes social cohesion in these neighborhoods and, of course, in the city as a whole," Folqué emphasizes.