Pope Francis met our Barbara: a beautiful story, against all stereotypes


It is a romantic and beautiful story, with two protagonists united by having been able to break each one stereotype. Barbara, held in the Roman women’s prison in Rebibbia and footballer of the club Atletico Rights, was received by Pope francesco. She showed up with the team shirt, brought him a pennant as a gift, read a poem from him and he compared it to Trilussa. The occasion was given by the presentation of the ‘We run together’ initiative, aimed at raising funds for some strategic hospitals in the emergency COVID-19.

Athletic Rights it is a multi-sport company of which I am honored to be president. It covers football, basketball and cricket. It was founded in 2014 by my association, Antigone, together with the Progetto Rights association and with the support of the Roma Tre University. In our teams, all registered in federal official tournaments except one, people play held or ex inmates, guys migrants and asylum seekers, university students. A place of contamination, where different experiences are mixed, where you learn that there are perspectives that you would never have imagined before, where the solidarity easily passes from inside to outside the playing field.

“Finally we leave,” says Barbara in her diary that morning at the Vatican. “I was expecting the service car, but it wasn’t like that, and my excitement went up both because I had been chosen to represent the team, but above all because in that car with my ‘escort’ I felt not a prisoner, but a 5-a-side soccer player who went to the audience with the Pope, and thanks also to those who were with me, who treated me very well and with absolute respect and professionalism: they trusted me leaving me space, and I tried to give my best and return respect “.

The only Atletico Rights team that does not dispute a federal tournament is also the only one who plays entirely inside a prison: the team of five-a-side football female Rebibbia. The prison camp is not in accordance with the FIGC standards and therefore the girls, until the beginning of the health emergency, played a tournament csi, with permission to play all home games.

The alchemy between the enthusiasm of our society, the skill of our coaches and the wonderful management of the prison, characterized for some time by directions exceptional and by open and intelligent operators, he gave his best: the football in there has become the symbol of the breaking of a model, of the female stereotype of detention, of the idea of ​​the woman detained crying with some man waiting outside and unable to take your life in hand. “If we can improve on a playing field then we can also do it outside”Is the slogan of Barbara and the other girls.

“The closer we got to San Pietro, the more the excitement went up, I just thought about what I would say to the Holy Father, how I would have related to him, what words to use in his presence, what he would have asked me “. Die to enter Vatican, one room, then another room, then another one. ”

Here he is, it is he, the Pope who approaches us and does everything except what they had told us “. Can anyone ever be surprised at this? Have you ever done, Pope francesco, what was expected of him? “It doesn’t follow no label nor protocol, it does what it feels like to do and with a lot of tranquility and simplicity ”. Talk to Barbara, thank you for coming, she says she wrote a poem for the occasion, he replies that he would be happy to listen to her.

Pope Francis in recent years has been the political and spiritual guide harder the world has had. It was breaking all previous patterns, putting in difficulty swamped Vatican hierarchies, spending in the juvenile prison of Casal del Marmo the first Holy Thursday of his pontificate, supporting the reception centers for migrants, sending his almsgiver to reconnect the light of a busy building, giving word to the prison in front of the whole world in an incredible Via Crucis. He was not and will never be a Pope. He will always and only be Pope Francis, a unicum of a thousand-year history.

In their personal story, Barbara and the other Atletico Rights girls have carried on a similar one Revolution. If the prison lives on stereotypes, this is perhaps even more true for the female prison and for that great labeling that is given by the outside world to every woman who with the commission of the crime did not respond to expectations that the whole society had on her.

In female prisons, activities considered to be female are organized (cooking, tailoring …). In women’s prisons it had never happened that a group of women felt they were taking their lives back through the football.

“Having read my poem the Holy Father smiles at me, gets up from his armchair and thanks me so much emotion giving me many compliments and comparing myself to Trilussa, which by the way is my favorite! “. Come on Barbara, shoot on goal!

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