Association Footura was founded in 2012 and since then, its main purpose has been the development of sports and youth activities. My path with Footura started back in 2015 – then, I was selected to participate in a youth exchange in Latvia about sports. This is how I got to know more about the organization, and I liked the people, the values, and the approaches that are used. This is what brought me to another youth exchange with Footura that was in the summer of 2017 in Poland. There was born the idea to create the youth club for the organization - the entity which is specialized in youth activities and international projects such as Erasmus+ - and I was chosen for its leader to communicate our initiatives to the young people in Bulgaria, to advertise, to create international partnerships, and to support Erasmus+ projects as I have participated in many of them.
It is already my third year as a volunteer in Footura and leader of Footura Youth Club. During that time, we organized many youth events and projects – every weekend, there are sports tournaments in Sofia that are free for students and, what is more, we aim at emphasizing the rural areas of Bulgaria and the people with fewer opportunities and ones from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is why two years ago, we supported a national marathon in Karlovo and just a few months ago, we organized a series of weekend seminars in the youth centers of Vratsa and Varben – a village with less than 100 people population.
One of the initiatives where I was very much involved, and which makes me most proud of, is the project MATCH – an international project funded by Erasmus+ with several meetings. One of those meetings was hosted in a weekend by us in Sofia in 2018. There we included, as usually, over 20 young people. What was the specific, however, was that most of them were refugees from Afghanistan.
During the first day, we talked about youth mobility and sports opportunities in Europe, Asia, and Australia while during the second day, we put some of the knowledge into practice – we made a football match between the Footura staff, Bulgarian youth, and refugees from Afghanistan. Some would say that it is just a football match and there are perhaps over 50 football matches every day in Bulgaria. However, I consider this as something unique and it makes me happy and sad at the same time. Happy – because the refugees said that Footura was the only thing which brings them social contacts and entertainment in Bulgaria. Sad – because of the attitude of society towards them – not only is there discrimination, but there is lack of desire among the majority of the people in Bulgaria to integrate refugees and minorities. During the weekend seminar as part of MATCH, for example, the Afghani refugees had to walk over an hour in order to reach our venue – the reason was not that they enjoy walking in Sofia so much, but that the bus drivers almost never stopped on the bus stop next to the refugee camp, and when they did stop – the Bulgarian passengers mocked, insulted, or physically threatened the refugees. Unfortunately, this problem is not only in Bulgaria, but it is very common for many Central and Eastern European countries and this is one of the things which I, Footura, and Footura Youth Club are trying to change.
Looking straight to the future: there will surely be a time when differences between people will not matter much. The question which remains is: when? I am working together with Footura in order to make this happen as soon as possible and Erasmus+ is a great opportunity that helps us achieve it. The truth is that the efforts of one person like me or one organization like Footura will be worth almost nothing if other people and organizations do not support us. The desire for collaboration towards a better future – this is what brings me here.
by Stoyan Gechkov
TC “Let them be heard” in Braga, Portugal