Sport and Social Inclusion Symposium in Berne22 June 2008

Following the last EURO 2008 match at the Stade de Suisse between Romania and the Netherlands, a symposium at the Paul Klee Centre in Berne looked at the potential of sport for social inclusion.

Academics, policy–makers, athletes, professionals and young people, mainly from Switzerland and the UK, came together to share knowledge on the power of sport, showcase groundbreaking initiatives and discuss the limits and possibilities of using sport as a tool for social inclusion.

In the opening presentation, UEFA’s football and social responsibility manager Patrick Gasser highlighted the various social projects at the UEFA EURO 2008, including the Unite Against Racism campaign carried out by FARE network in partnership with UEFA.

Football and the inclusion of migrants
The contribution of football to the integration of migrants featured prominently in the full-day event. Markus Gander presented the open street football league Buntkicktgut (Colourful Kicks Good), which seeks to encourage transcultural exchange among young people in Switzerland, irrespective of religion and ethnic background. It gives so-called “Secondos”, which are second and third generation immigrant youth, the chance to build up viable contacts and networks with ‘indigenous’ Swiss. The Buntkicktgut festival from 20 to 22 June in Liestal near Basel is part of the Swiss Unite Against Racism campaign and supported by FARE.

The founder of the FARE member organisation Gemeinsam gegen Rassismus/HalbZeit (United against Racism/Half time), Urs Frieden, pointed out that preventive measures are still very much needed. His initiatives successfully managed to combat open racism amongst the support of Young Boys Berne following 12 years of continuous work.

Urs Frieden: “The stadium is a reflection of society and we see in Italy how fast the anti-Roma propaganda has entered the stadiums there. We can’t sit back and pretend racism is not an issue anymore”.
During EURO 2008 four members of the Gemeinsam gegen Rassismus initiative have worked as FARE monitors in the Swiss stadiums.

Challenging gender norms through sport
A lively session dealt with the question of whether sport is an effective means to challenge gender norms and if sport is able to stimulate positive personal and social change that finally leads to empowerment and social inclusion.

Marianne Meier, researcher in the field of Sport and Gender at the Swiss Academy for Development (SAD) pointed out that in many parts of the world sport is still considered as inappropriate for women.
“Sweating in public is seen as a potential danger to getting a good husband…Girls are expected to do a lot of work in the household and have less access to education than boys. By offering sports activities to girls and women, they get a chance to develop and increase their self-confidence. Girls and women who excel at sport can act as role models for other girls and women”, said Meier.

A role model for many girls aspiring a career in football is Permi Jhooti, the first Asian female professional in England and a FIFA ambassador. Millions of filmgoers know her story – a Indian girl who defied her parents to play football – but not many know that the inspiration for the film “Bend it like Beckham” now lives in Switzerland. Permi Jhooti joined the symposium together with Kathrin Lehmann, a professional football player at Hammarby in Sweden as well as an ice hockey player.

Speakers also included Geoff Thompson, 5 times Karate World Champion and Urs Kolly, 7 times Paraolympic gold medallist in men’s pentathlon, long jump and discus and Ingrid Beutler from the UN office on Sport and Development.

The symposium was coordinated by the Swiss Academy for Development and jointly initiated by the Swiss Embassy in London and the British Embassy in Berne.