Focus 2007

Duirberg Uniting youth - GER01-07-2007

Project: 27th European Youth Games in Germany: Uniting youth
Date of foundation: 1990
Place: Duisburg Germany
Province: Europe

“Taking part was the real victory for me”

The lads in blue were sweaty and at the end of their tether left the football field and grabbed their water bottles contentedly. The Slovak team on the other side of the field were rejoicing. “No, we’re not unhappy”, explains Jasser, while he carried on enjoying himself with his team mates. “Just being here was victory enough for us!”, explains Fr Andre. He is a Salesian of Don Bosco and he came from Bethlehem with his team. Thanks to ‘Polisportive Giovanili Salesiane’ they were able to collect sufficient funds for the cost of the journey to Duisburg for the 27th International Games.

“This is a real holiday for my lads. Things are quite different where we come from. Bethlehem is like a small prison. You can’t go outside the wall surrounding us without permission. There are armed soldiers on the street, and parents are afraid for their children when they go to school.“

George is 17 years of age. What would you like to do in life? “I’d like to be a Phys Ed teacher, but I’m not sure what the future holds for me. Meaning I’m not sure what I’ll do.“

Fr Andre knows the problems his young people face. But he is very happy that it has been possible for his twelve boys from the youth centre to take part in this experience. “They can forget all the psychological pressures they are under at home for a day or two. When we arrived in Germany, they asked where all the people were, until they understood that in Germany people were at work and so the streets are more or less empty.“ One clearly notes Fr Andre’s deep commitment to his boys when he says: “We Salesians want to tell young people that we are all human beings and it doesn’t matter what religion they belong to.” Jasser and George are both Muslims. But they play alongside Christians in their team. In the Salesian youth centre in Bethlehem Muslims and Christians learn to play and live side by side. They also pray together. “We all believe in the same God”, says Fr Andre, "We are brothers, we are all human beings with hands and feet.. Why should religion divide us? This is what the Salesians do around the world on behalf of Don Bosco’s mission: Bring people together."

Fr Otto Nosbisch, Rector of the Salesian House at Essen, is especially satisfied that “the Salesian spirit has been expressed so strongly over these days.” He notes how tiring the recent days have been. From the 26th April until the 1st May 1300 youngsters have been cared for from morning till dusk.. 120 teams from 13 nations. Don Bosco College Essen Borbeck took charge of the entire operation. An organising team under the direction of Georg Leibold, teacher at the College, spent two years in preparation. All volunteers. During the games another 250 parents and students helped out.

Despite a hoarse voice, Fr Nosbischlooks happy as he casts his eye towards the field where the young people are lying under umbrellas and resting from the game. They are singing and having fun. "Broadly speaking the dynamic for the Games is young people meeting one another, and that is the overall effect. This is what we wanted to achieve!"

Playing, having fun, believing together - this is the motto we gave the 28th Salesian European Youth Games, which have taken place in Germany for the first time. Wherever you are around the Duisburg sportsground you can see these words. “Our team celebrates Daily Mass. Yesterday after the game they gathered on the field and celebrated Mass with their priest“, said Marco and Sophia. The two students from Don Bosco College Essen are guides for the Slovak team. They support the team during the Games. In total there are more than 100 students involved as guides. They come and take their “boys” to the station, go with them to the sports field and help them until the evening comes. “Communication is going on all the time, even at times with hands and feet”, says Sophia, laughing. She is very fond of “her” Slovaks.

Not all the teams are at the same level sportswise. The Polish and Croat coaches make sure their football and basketball teams are in bed by ten each evening so they’ll be fit for the following day. Dr Manfred Albus, phys ed teacher at St. Anthony’s school in Neunkirchen sees things differently: “The kids know what to do - I don’t patrol in the evenings with a big stick.” 18 year old Thomas from the Don Bosco youth centre in Sannerz thinks similarly. “What’s important is to take part!”, he says laughing after his teams second defeat. They put their team together only at the last minute. Thomas and his team mates are being trained as furniture polishers and painters at Sannerz. To play here in Duisburg is fun for them.

The Duisburg sports are an opportunity to meet and play for so many young people around Europe. Sport brings them together in the spirit of Don Bosco, but the experiences that they are open to are far more than sport. Loyalty, mutual respect and understanding amongst peoples describes the Salesian European Youth Games. The bishop of Ruhr, Felix Genn, expressed satisfaction and pleasure in his homily for the presence of all these youngsters. “Sport and games bring who would otherwise be unknown to one another together.”

For Jasser there’s something else he will not so quickly forget: “We’ve played football for the first time on a grass pitch. On real grass! That was simply wonderful!“

Don Bosco and sport

Don Bosco is patron of sport. Not officially, but as he would want to be, since Don Bosco sees sport and prayer as both opportunities for helping young people to be open to higher values.

In the youth centres, schools and technical institutes the Salesians of Don Bosco around the world give great importance to sport. Games, sport, winning and losing, getting involved and finding out their strengths has special value. These elements represent human values needed for people to live together in community.

Don Bosco’s ideal for sport is not tied up with a desire for constant victory. It aims rather at pleasure and enjoyment and human freedom. Sport, as Don Bosco intended it, is also for the positive benefit of the person. So the young person knows how to share his strengths, put aside useless things, learn to use his potential and manage his time.

Whoever chooses the “sports school” of Don Bosco, learns to value himself and understand his own strengths. He is able to learn more that a street child or weak person is worht something in God’s eyes God as much as a sporting champion.

Polisportive Giovanili Salesiane PGS

In 1989 the European PGS was set up in occasion for the centenary of Don Bosco’s death. In Italy, Salesian sports events have a long tradition, with the EuropeanPGS the idea was extended throughout Europe. From 1990 onwards every year the Salesian European Youth Games have been held in various major cities. The European Community which came into existence in the 90’s has been represented in (Slovenia) in 1993, Warsaw (Poland) in 2001 and Zagreb (Croatia) in 2003.
This year the Games took place in Germany for the first time. During the final Mass the Games Torch was put out, the PGS flag was then handed over to the next country to host the Games. This will be in Lubiana, chosen to host the Games for the second time.

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