Integration Through Sport: Exploring the Role of Migrant Sports Clubs in German Society

Boxing training in Frankfurt (Oder)

Photo: dpa/Patrick Pleul

How is it possible for migrant sports clubs to contribute to the integration of their club members into German society and not lead to isolation? An interim assessment of the model project »integration through sport” pulled.

From the point of view of Professor Silvester Stahl from the University of Applied Sciences for Sport and Management in Potsdam, the migrant football club “Forster Löwen”, founded in 2022, has had a promising development. He wants to join the league soon. But that was and is not easy because the city of Forst does not have an excess of infrastructure and initially no training ground for the “Lions” was permanently secured.

In the existing Forster clubs, the lions “were not welcome to everyone either.” Stahl said: “The wind blew in your face.” Experiences with the migrant football club “Union Cottbus” were by no means positive. It must be regarded as “failed at first”. “It didn’t work well there.” There were a lot of conflicts – racist attacks, but also misconduct and “completely unacceptable” behavior on the part of the immigrant club members.

The member of parliament Lars Schieske (AfD) wanted to know whether, after the dissolution of “Union Cottbus”, the players were now migrating to Forst, 15 kilometers away. Stahl replied that it had been decided in Forst not to accept anyone from Union Cottbus. Even before that, the Forster had not played any friendlies against the Cottbus team, despite repeated requests, “because they saw that things weren’t going well there,” said Stahl.

For Brandenburg, the founding of such sports clubs is a relatively recent and rare phenomenon. Nevertheless, according to the professor, the entire range of experiences is also reflected in these few examples. Five locations were part of the model project. Developments there are very different. Population development suggests that more sports clubs of this kind will emerge in the future.

As part of the “Integration through Sport” model project, the federal government provides funding for such start-ups. Subsidies for trainers, hall fees and sports equipment are available. This means that these clubs are not preferred. On the contrary, they are at an enormous disadvantage compared to the “top dogs”, not least because many of their members and officials have no income of their own. The federal government pays the additional funding. “Nobody is being taken away from anyone because of this,” asserted Uwe Koch from the Brandenburg Sports Youth.

The originally intended association was not founded in Potsdam. But in Ludwigsfelde a club was formed that runs well and enables immigrant children and young people to do sports. Clubs that were founded by and for migrants opened doors, especially for young immigrants, “that would not be easily accessible for German clubs,” sports scientist Stahl noted. For women from strictly Muslim milieus, for example, they are ultimately the only option. But immigrants can also go a different route. Many of those who did sports and even competitive sports in Russia or Syria – for example in the disciplines of handball or boxing – joined long-established sports clubs with almost no problems.

Blanket judgments are inadmissible, said Stahl. In West Germany, however, there were migrant sports clubs that “are not committed to integration” and, for example, wanted the Turks to keep to themselves. One can be glad that there are no such clubs in Brandenburg “and hopefully there won’t be either”. On the other hand, it can also be observed that once purely Turkish clubs had changed their names, because it was no longer only Turks who trained there.

“Of course there are also problems,” said MP Petra Budke (Greens). But sport is good for “combating everyday racism”.

2023-06-08 17:34:47

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