Giallo Dozza, 10 years of commitment on the field and in life

Giallo Dozza, 10 years of commitment on the field and in life

At the end of every rugby field is a white line in the middle of which stand two tall posts that point to the sky, connected by a third that runs parallel to the ground. Crossing that line and pressing the ball into the grass is the ultimate achievement and scores the most points in the game. It means that you have made your mark. In this way, rugby is a powerful metaphor for life. As a team sport, it teaches you that respect for yourself stems from respect for others and for the rules of the game. Infringe those rules and a yellow card sends you to the ‘sin bin’ to cool down and reflect on your mistake. The “Tornare in Campo” (Rejoin the Game) project was set up in Dozza prison in the province of Bologna nearly ten years ago to encourage young inmates to play rugby, get back in shape and acquire a positive attitude to teamwork and society. The team took the colour of the ‘sending off’ card for its kit and even calls itself Giallo Dozza (Dozza Yellow). The Series C side is made up of players who have received the ‘yellow card’ in real life along with a sentence long enough for them to reflect on their mistakes.

Rugby offers a second chance

Rugby is a tough, combative sport, but with a real sense of social cohesion and teamwork. The sport transmits healthy values and rules that form character and can even change a person for the better. In May 2013, this was the thinking of Pietro Buffa, then head of the prison service for the Emilia-Romagna region, and of Francesco Paolini, President of Rugby Bologna 1928, when the pair decided to repeat an experiment that had already proved successful in Turin’s Vallette prison. Buffa and Paolini first obtained the support of Claudia Clementi, Director of Dozza prison, and Giancarlo Dondi, president of the F.I.R. At that time. Later they received the enthusiastic backing of Daniele Ravaglia, General Director of Emilbanca, and Gianluca Pavanello, CEO of Macron. Illumia, FAAC and other local companies who saw the importance of supporting an initiative of such great social benefit joined the project later. A commitment that was also renewed by the new Director of the Bologna Penitentiary Institute, Dr. Casella. Rugby is a sport in which, when you fall, you have to get up, helped by whoever is at your side, and carry on playing.  It demands faith in and respect for others, because that much-needed try is so much easier to achieve if you work together.

Ten years of stories and history

Since the project began, thanks in no small way to the active participation of the coaches and trainers of Bologna Rugby Club, Giallo Dozza has played in over 100 games, fielding a team selected from hundreds of players of many different nationalities and religions. The team has become a universe for personal stories, mistakes and rebirths. The socialising spirit of rugby provides great education and guidance even within the walls of a prison. The sport teaches that rules are needed, and that discipline works in your favour and not against you. Giallo Dozza is made up of men who have more or less painful stories behind them to reflect upon, and for whom that coveted try line is more or less easy to reach. The team and its shared objectives play a fundamental role in this process of reflection and, for some, in the process of returning to society.

Bring out the hero in you

The tagline of “Become Your Own Hero” assumes a special significance in this context. On the metaphorical penalty bench where they find themselves obliged to sit out their time, the players of Giallo Dozza can also find a way forward, because the hero inside them can instil the determination, passion and drive needed to reach that most important of objectives: bringing out the best in yourself. Once they have pressed the ball into the grass beyond that try line, they will be able to get up, look back at those tall posts and leave them behind for the last time as they begin a new journey as free, responsible and better men.