Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Soccer as a Tool for Integration

Kreuzberg and Wedding are two areas of Berlin that serve as examples ofmulticultural hubs of ethnic integration issues. Within these vibrant neighborhoods,two different programs have gained success in attempting to facilitate youth integration through the game of soccer. The first club, known throughout Kreuzberg and beyond, is Türkiyemspor Berlin. This organization, started in 1978, has grown to become the third largest soccer club within the city limits. The other youth club that is of significance has a much longer history with the city of Berlin and is currentlyrecognized at its’ largest soccer club. Known as the Youth Academy of Hertha BSC Berlin, the original club hails from Wedding and spans over a century of history. Throughout the course of our research, we have been fortunate enough to have theopportunity to interview representatives from both of these respected and progressive organizations. A discussion of the goals, successes, and fears brought forward by leaders of these clubs will help further elucidate the perception of thecurrent state of affairs when dealing with integration in Berlin. Türkiyemspor, the newer and smaller of these two exemplary clubs, has over three hundred young people on its roster of players. According to FIFA (the International Federation of Association Football), “they have become the most famous club of Turkish origin in Germany and now run three men's, 14 junior andthree girls' teams, with players of all ethnic origins welcome.” (FIFA.com). In their first team alone, seven different countries are represented by youth under the guidance of a native German coach. Türkiyemspor tackles issues of burning importance within its home neighbourhood of Kreuzberg through its involvement and co-operation with local police, schools, non-government organizations, and social projects. Türkiyemspor has become involved in various facets of integration issues, ranging from their work with girl’s soccer to their participation in varioustournaments surrounding topics pertaining to tolerance and assimilation within thecommunity.The concept behind Türkiyemspor came out of a desire to provide activitiesfor youth who were victims of domestic violence within their home lives. The initial efforts of the club focused on providing integration activities for girls of primarily a Muslim migration background. These witnesses of domestic violence were often notgiven the opportunity within their society to become involved with integration efforts manifested in the realm of sport. Türkiyemspor has attempted to give these girls a venue in which to come together and meet other girls who may be originating fromsimilar backgrounds. The organization works with girls between the ages of eight and

thirteen through co-operating with schools to make it possible for them to become involved with soccer activities. Nico Borsetzky, a gentleman of Greek descent born and raised in Germany, isone of the head organizers of Türkiyemspor that agreed to speak with us. Heexplained the particular circumstances that lead to Türkiyemspor’s success among itstargeted youth through the soccer programs for young girls. According to Mr. Borsetzky, “what makes Türkiyemspor different from other football clubs is itsincorporation of social instruction along with football.” He commented on difficultiesin dealing with youths with migration backgrounds, especially with the projection ofTurkish gender roles being pronounced on sports fields - conservative families, for example, may object to girl players wearing shorts. Türkiyemspor is the only soccerclub within Berlin that offers such a multicultural and comprehensive program for young girls. (It is worthwhile to note that the English Football Club of Berlin additionally has such a program, yet such multicultural dynamics are nearly absent within their organization). Mr. Borsetzky further commented as to the breadth thattheir integration efforts encompass though additionally mentioning the historical binary conflict of East and West Berlin. In regards to the role of a formerly divided city now in a state of reunification, he says, “it is also important that we bring girls from East and West Berlin together…the wall is still in the heads of the people.” Asdepicted by Borsetzky, integration is the key for transgressing boundaries that havemanifested divisions within mainstream Berliner society. Community Soccer Integration InitiativesAlongside its efforts in promoting the involvement of migrant girls in sportsintegration programs, Türkiyemspor has additionally become involved with threenotable community initiatives. The first of these, referred to as “Stopp Tokat” (also known as Stop die Abzocke, Stop the rip-off) was created as a project with the Kreuzberg police that was developed as a reaction towards rising rates of neighbourhood crime. The ultimate goal of the project was the creation of a network against crime encompassing as many Kreuzberg clubs, schools and associations aspossible. The project aimed to help enlighten children from various migrant backgrounds as to the lives of their peers from different ethnic backgrounds.Through activities such as a painting contest between local elementary schools, “Stopp Tokat” was an attempt to use sport as a bridge for facilitating communication during times of hardship within a multiethnic community. A second initiative in whichTürkiyemspor has participated is the “Respect Gaymes.” This project took the form of a soccer tournament held annually in June to oppose discrimination against gays and lesbians within the community. The tournament invited any and all who were interested in participating, regardless of sexual orientation. Türkiyemspor participated in order to offer support from the perspective of a group that is also a

minority within Berlin. The third and final initiative of significance to note is the “Avitall-Cup,” an interreligious soccer tournament that will take place for the fourthannual time this July. At this tournament, players from Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and atheist teams all compete in the pursuit of winning the cup. Participation in suchinitiatives establishes Türkiyemspor as an organization that is passionate about the role of social integration for minorities from an assortment of backgrounds. Through concentrating their efforts in realms beyond ethnic conflicts, Türkiyemspor pledges to support integration of any and all minority groups. The commendable work of Türkiyemspor has not gone without notice within both Kreuzberg and the greater Berlin area. The federal government honored boththe ‘Respect Gaymes’ and the ‘Avitall Cup’ as “exemplary events for the promotion of integration.” Of even greater significance is the presentation of the first ever award for stellar achievements within the field of integration to Türkiyemspor on behalf of the Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB) and it’s premium partner Mercedes Benz. The president of the DFB, Mr. Theo Zwanziger, recognizes the potential that sport holdswithin the ideal of integration through his partnership in the creation of the first ever DFB & Mercedes Benz Integration Prize. As noted on the official website of the DFB, Mr. Zwanziger believes fully in the ideal that “football has the unique potential toserve as a stepping stone for disadvantaged and sometimes discriminated minorities in our society. Sports should know no boundaries…people from all walks of life meeton the field or at the sidelines, as players and fans. If the various social agentsinteract, we can use football as the perfect tool to further an integrated society.” The allotment of such a prize to Türkiyemspor recognizes both the hard work anddedication of this particular club as well as the pledge initiated by professional sportsorganizations to actively encourage integration through recreation.

Integration Through Recreation
The Role of Youth Soccer in Multicultural Berlin
Neaka Lynn Balloge, Steffen Hurka, & Corey Walker
Humanity in Action Final Research Paper Team Berlin, Summer 2008

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