CONIFA is keen to support players from all backgrounds as it celebrates inclusivity across the globe. In our latest feature, we catch up with Francesco Zema, the organisation’s Disabled Football Manager.
Tell us a bit about you?
I am a Non-Profit specialist working with vulnerable communities, young at risk and disabled people. I am family man and an avid traveler. My greatest strength is my intellectual curiosity. I love the way the world, the people and different cultures can shape me. Football for me is a true love and a consistent part of my life.
How did you manage to become European disabled football manager?
Well, I have always been in touch with football tournaments, sports projects and cultural events. Surfing the net, I found out about CONIFA and I started to follow the organization and its events. I began to make some connections on Facebook with members and FAs, until I had a call with CONIFA’s European President Alberto Rischio.
Alberto explained to me about CONIFA’s vision regarding football for all and the big challenge in giving a chance to disabled people to play football and be linked with the rest of the footballing world. We had a good talk; we shared some points of view and finally Alberto asked me to join the European team giving me the opportunity to fill the role of European disabled manager.
What is your point of view on CONIFA?
I’ve read somewhere a beautiful description about CONIFA: Recognising the Unrecognised and Championing the Underdog. That’s the best way to underline why I love CONIFA.
CONIFA is not a conventional organization. In my opinion it is the right place where people can be encouraged to make new friendships and connections through football.
CONIFA values the power of football: from its grassroots to the World Footbal Cup, they are trying to give the opportunity to play and to represent people everywhere in the world. That opportunity is for all, no matter what the political status, cultural differences, or social and special issues like disabled people: CONIFA aims to bring freedom to play.
I love it because I ‘ve always believed that football could change the world. Here, all fans can fly the flag of their team sharing culture and good time with other fans. Players and FAs have got a key role: they represent the good spirit of football, the love for their places, their culture and their people. Inclusivity is the word.
How will you promote football for disabled in Europe?
First, I will promote our values, our vision and how football for disabled is important for CONIFA. Then I will work together with the European Committee and FAs with two specific goals: to promote football for disabled within the European membership and to develop a strategy to implement and improve this area.
You said you already known some CONIFA territories. Where have you been?
I had the chance to visit Northern Cyprus, Abkhazia, Transnistria, Monaco, County of Nice, Occitania, Raetia, Jersey, and Mapuche among others. I wish to visit all the European FAs and their lands during my time with CONIFA.
After the No Limits European tournament in Monte Carlo, do you think others European FAs will manage to set up a team for players with a disability?
The No Limits European Tournament held in Montecarlo in 2019 marked an historical and successful milestone for CONIFA and disabled football. Sardinia, Padania, Monaco and County of Nice produced a fantastic tournament and the venue was simply amazing! That tournament was covered by Mycujoo.tv and we understood that many people across the world followed the live streaming of all matches.
Can we call it a challenge?
It is! It’s not easy to organize a continental tournament for disabled people. You must take into account many things such as the venue, hospitality and how to move and help all teams. We are enthusiastic to face this challenge, because we believe that next No Limits Cup will be a fantastic opportunity to give a chance to play and a good visibility for football for disabled people.
How many teams have an opportunity of football for disabled people?
Many European FAs declared their interest to send their representative team to No Limits 2021. We have already received 8 requests, but we are only at the first steps. I will ask all FAs to start thinking and develop a local action plan about football for disabled people.
Do you know where you will host No Limits in 2021? Any candidates?
I am proud to be a part of a great European Committee. Our team has already started to focus on No Limits 2021 Euro Cup. We had some calls and we have planned the road to No Limits. In the coming days, I will contact every FAs introducing our project, the terms of admission and the possibility to host the tournament.
As I said before, last No Limits Cup showed us that there is a huge interest on football for disabled people and many FAs know the importance to host such competition. We’ll see!