World Refugee Day: Global expansion of baseball-softball can and must serve refugees, says WBSC President Fraccari

World Refugee Day: Global expansion of baseball-softball can and must serve refugees, says WBSC President Fraccari
To mark World Refugee Day on 20 June 2021, World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) President Riccardo Fraccari reaffirms the WBSC’s commitment and responsibility to leverage baseball and softball to help shape a better global society, including the call for the inclusion and support of refugees in sport.

Here at the WBSC, we are committed to using baseball, softball and our newest discipline, Baseball5, to improve the accessibility and services of our sport to refugees. This is why the WBSC is a proud member of the UNHCR and International Olympic Committee (IOC) “Sports Coalition”.

As we emerge from one of the most challenging years many of us have ever known, we are reminded by days like World Refugee Day that there is still much work left to ensure our world is governed by solidarity, compassion, diversity and inclusivity. There is no doubt that sport has a key role to play in promoting these values while raising awareness for critical issues such as the global refugee crisis, which show that we must continue our efforts to ensure that sport can be accessible to all.

The COVID-19 pandemic has of course impacted the implementation of our vision, with sport and travel put on hold for much of 2020. However, we have used time away from the field to focus on setting strong foundations to launch our sport into a new era. And we will continue to take the lessons learnt to ensure that the WBSC – and baseball and softball – continues to make our sport more accessible to more communities.

Accessibility is one of the key reasons behind the creation of Baseball5 - which only requires a ball to play – and is designed to be a youth-focused and inclusive game that anyone can #playeverywhere.

In 2019, we had the honour of introducing Baseball5 to Zaatari, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) run world’s largest camp for Syrian refugees, as part of the partnership developed with the organisation Peace and Sport. Baseball5 was introduced over the course of a two-day coaching workshop to many of the 80,000 refugees living in the camp.

It is initiatives such as these that will shape our vision to positively impact the lives of refugees worldwide and provide opportunities for them to participate in sport and derive its many benefits. With this vision in mind, we will redouble our efforts in the years ahead, with the guidance of the UNHCR, to ensure these opportunities are created.

The same goes for the WBSC’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with World Taekwondo (WT) and the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF) to promote humanitarian, social inclusion and development-supporting activities. Here, all three organisations remain committed to exploring all opportunities and projects to advance youth participation and inclusive sport.

Meanwhile, the IOC’s announcement of the Refugee Olympic Team (EOR) for Tokyo 2020 was indeed a message of hope and solidarity to the world while raising awareness to the plight of over 80 million displaced people worldwide. My warmest congratulations must go to the team of 29 refugee athletes competing across 12 sports, and I have no doubt that their performances at the Games will inspire the Olympic Movement and beyond.

I call on the global baseball-softball community to honour the millions of refugees around the world, not only today, but every day, and to recognise the need to ensure that sport and its benefits must become more accessible. It is only together that we can build a stronger global community. Like the UNHCR says; “We shine when we play together as a team.”

Global Game