ROSARNO, Italy (AP) — A soccer team fielding only African migrants is hoping to win hearts and games in one of Italy's poorest regions, where locals and foreigners once clashed in bloody fights.
A local Catholic charity manages the team, Koa Bosco, near the town of Rosarno in southern Italy. In 2010, clashes between residents there and migrants who pick crops in the region left 38 people wounded. The fights began when two migrants were shot with a pellet gun in an attack that migrants blamed on racism.
Koa Bosco captain Yaya Diallo, from Ivory Coast, arrived on Lampedusa island, near Sicily, in 2010. Hundreds of thousands of migrants have reached southern Italy in smugglers boats in recent years.
Diallo, on the sidelines of a recent game, said he would discourage other migrants from coming to Italy. Many of the arrivals live in Italy for months or even years while their asylum requests are examined. Authorities say most of the migrants don't want to stay in Italy but to reach northern Europe, for better job prospects or to join relatives.
"You see, the situation here is very difficult," Diallo said. "It's too late for us, we're already here. But those who want to come, I don't want them to come. If there was work, fine. But there is no work."
It's not easy on the pitch either, said teammate Ali Trauri. "We only think about winning. But our problem is the referees here," he said. "All the calls go against us."
The team is now in its third year. "It's very satisfying. The lads' joy is contagious," said the coach, Domenico Mammoliti.