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Kabubu & YouSport: Advancing Inclusion in France & Italy

Beyond Sport X Under Armour Participant Spotlight

November 3, 2023 

In celebration of the expansion of our #SportForSocialChange retail donation campaign in partnership with Under Armour into France and Italy this week, we’re spotlighting the participating charities that are using sport to transform young lives. Today meet Kabubu, which is advancing inclusion for socially vulnerable people in Paris, Lyon and Strasbourg, and YouSport, which is improving youth acceptance, integration and wellbeing in Milan. 

France is considered to be one of the main asylum host countries in Europe. The total number of refugees in the country last year was close to 613,000 – a 22.61% increase from 2021. But amongst immigrants and refugees, homeless is rising, with people from Romania and Bulgaria making up the majority of people living in slums. Currently, there are 300,000 homeless people in the country resulting from systemic and social barriers, unemployment, prolonged length of rehousing, sheltering and legalisation of paperwork.

Italy also has a high number of migrants and asylum seekers (over 700,000), with Milan increasingly home to many. Approximately 20% of its population is from an ethnically diverse background. Milan has committed to develop and deliver social inclusion strategies for people in vulnerable situations, including migrants, asylum-seekers and unaccompanied minors. However, many newly  arrived undocumented migrants are struggling to find jobs, education opportunities and integrate.


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Founded in 2018, Kabubu was born during Paris' bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, with the intention to align with the Olympic values and commit to using sport as a tool for inclusion. The organisation currently works in Paris, Lyon and Strasbourg, France to foster the inclusion of exiled people through the unifying power of sport. It believes that migration represents wealth for everyone and allows us to broaden our horizons. 

Kabubu is Swahili and represents a mind favoured by interaction and friendship formed around the practice of sport. “We see the unifying element in sport everywhere every day,” explained Co-director, Noémie Marchyllie. “Sport has the power to unite people no matter where they come from or what language they speak. The participants are all players on the pitch, united by the same passion. People who seem to have nothing in common become friends on the pitch and help each other off it.” 

Its programmes focus on three areas: 1 - providing inclusive sports activities that bring people of all backgrounds together and deconstruct prejudices on migration. 2 - offering coaching and vocational training to aid with its participants' personal development. 3 - running workshops to raise awareness on the issues and challenges involved in fleeing a country and settling into a new one.

Last year, the organisation supported more than 2,400 people from all walks of life – a huge majority of whom were socially exiled. Being ‘socially exiled’ mainly includes those who are isolated or at risk of isolation in society. “The backgrounds of the ‘exiles’ who participate in our activities are very varied. Some have fled war or persecution and others lack of economic prospects in their own countries. The average age of our participants is 26," notes Marchyllie.

"Some have just arrived in France, others have applied for asylum at the prefecture and are still waiting, others have received a positive response to their application for refugee status. Others have received a negative response and are therefore undocumented and awaiting regularisation. All have been through extremely difficult situations and are looking for social links and a safe environment.”  

She also shared that the top challenges facing their participants include a lack of decent accommodation, meaning that many are homeless whilst their documents are being checked. Additionally, in France, asylum seekers cannot officially work so it is hard for people to send money to their relatives and survive economically. And finally, physical avenues to support mental health are difficult to access because of a lack of sport and leisure activities.

All of Kabubu’s programmes are linked to sport – football, volleyball, boxing, dance and climbing to name a few – and are free of charge. It also distributes sports equipment to people who cannot afford it or to buy sportswear. One of its programmes, Potenti'elles, targets the social inclusion and improvement of physical and mental wellbeing for disadvantaged local women around Paris. The intention is for girls and women to learn together and from each other through yoga, hiking, rugby, basketball, football and other sports. Another programme, Ambassad'Or, operates across all three of its cities and is focussed on skills development that create social ties between participants from all backgrounds. It also trains participants to become sports volunteers.

With funds raised from the Beyond Sport X Under Armour campaign and seed funding provided by the retailer, Kabubu will further develop and invest in sporting activities in Paris, Lyon and Strasbourg in order to increase inclusion and bring people together.


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Founded in 2020, YouSport promotes social inclusion through sport and is on a mission to break down barriers to diversity on the field. Operating in Milan, it serves youth from all backgrounds but mainly multinationals and those from disadvantaged economic backgrounds. It creates places where those who feel excluded or vulnerable can bond and share sporting experiences. 

The organisation has a strong stance on diversity, believing that mixture is a strength and that inclusion benefits not only those being welcomed, but also those who welcome. “To make inclusion and openness possible, we must educate those who are welcome in our city and country and also those welcome, so we can teach about acceptance and respect. To make this society better, we must start from the basics, from culture and knowledge,” shared General Manager, Matteo Capone. YouSport also feels that integration, inclusion and bringing different people together are key to positively improving the economy and society in the coming years. 

Capone explained that the top challenges their youth face are a lack of acceptance and access to quality sporting activities. “In Italy and especially in Milan, there is a lack of well-equipped and well-managed sports facilities that allow young people to feel part of a community. In our country, there’s also a strong limitation for the acceptance of multiculturalism, making it difficult for people from different social backgrounds to have free access to sports activities.” 

To address these challenges, YouSport engages its participants through sport and in particular football, which acts as the bonding glue between people with different cultures and backgrounds. It created seven multi-ethnic football teams which enage 40 young people every year, two-thirds of whom are migrants; at least 50 are women. In collaboration with the Pizzigoni Institute, the organisation currently has two training groups in middle schools – one for boys and one for girls – encompassing around 40 children. Called the "Heroes Project," the programme is incorporated into the school's curriculum and includes supervision by a sports psychologist and meetings with a sport nutritionist on selected topics. It offers accessible extracurricular sporting activities and spaces where students and their families have the opportunity to connect and address barriers to diversity through sport. 

As well as serving youth, YouSport has a football team mainly composed of migrant men between 20-40-years-old from eight different nationalities and a women’s- only team with participants ranging from 18-50 years-old. These projects include developmental aspects that teach the Italian language, football-related skills and team building.

“Football has an extraordinary power, especially on young people. It welcomes, includes and allows them to discover and learn more about their own personality and values through sharing with others. It is a team sport of incredible power," said Capone. "All it takes is a simple ball to create a space for play, fun, sharing, knowledge and friendship. Nothing could be simpler than involving young people and allowing them to grow.” Capone shared about a young boy from Tongo who engaged with the organisation and after a few sessions, immediately became enthusiastic about football and making new friends with the team.

The organisation added a project for children with cognitive disabilities and those on the autism spectrum that uses technology to help improve sports and social skills. Weekly, the project serves more than 10 boys and girls aged 6-11 with cognitive disabilities and involves additional children aged 11-14 and adults as volunteers and tutors. The use of new technologies and on-field activities strengthens participants' awareness, self-esteem and health conditions, providing them with an inclusive environment to be more open and build new relationships. The alternation between football and thematic activities makes it possible to offer children an engaging and customised training experience, which works not only on physical and motor skills but also on mental skills like socialisation. Additionally, YouSport recently started a new project at San Vittore prison for prisoners and young offenders called "Phoenix." It grew out of the organisation's desire to give inmates the opportunity to experience the physical and mental benefits of sports. 

With funds raised from the Beyond Sport X Under Armour partnership, YouSport will support the costs of its Heroes project in schools. As Capone explained, “unfortunately, since we do not have our own space, a large part of our association's expenses are tied up in renting space and in Milan it is increasingly difficult to find free, quality and well-managed spaces."

Learn more about the incredible organisations we're working to support in the UK and Europe HERE. If you live in France or Italy, please consider visiting your local Under Armour store to support #SportforSocialChange! 


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