Across the world, sport is regularly used as one of the most effective tools to further the integration and wellbeing of migrants. And the contributions of migrants to a more diverse society have also boosted the popularity of particular sports in several countries.
The case of Germany and cricket
Earlier this year, a report in the British newspaper The Telegraph revealed the revival of cricket in Germany, a sport lost since the British forces withdrew after the fall of the Berlin wall, thanks to growing immigration in the country.
Figures showed that the number of teams doubled in Germany in the past five years to about 110.
“The sport is growing all the time,” said Brian Mantle, CEO of the German Cricket Association (DCB), “But today it’s mostly played by people who learnt the game in places like Pakistan and India.”
Football for inclusion
During the Fare Football People action weeks in October, European groups, recognising the changing face of their countries through migration, organised activities to highlight the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees while promoting inclusion.
Over the period, topics, such as the trafficking of young African football players to Europe, were discussed in Portugal and Spain through screening of the Luso-Spanish film ‘Diamantes Negros’.
In several other countries, including Finland, Greece, Georgia and Slovakia, football tournaments and discussions brought together migrants and locals to address racism and xenophobia.
Role models in professional football
Over the recent years, football professionals and national federations have also played an important role to highlight the contributions of migrants to football.
In Chile, the Venezuela player Emilio Rentería, who was subjected to racist and xenophobic abuse in two matches of the Chilean first league in November, announced today his support to a nation-wide campaign against the discrimination of migrants #NoMásBurradas.
The campaign aims to stress the importance of migrants in building a more diverse society.
Similarly, earlier in November, the former France and Manchester United legend Eric Cantona launched a new documentary that marked the 100 years of migrant flows in France through the perspective of football.
In England, the life story of the Congolese-born and former Bolton player Fabrice Muamba has become an inspiration to many. Muamba of a humble background in Congo made history in England by becoming one of the most capped England Under-21 players ever.
Qatar 2022 World Cup
Nonetheless, in 2014 the idea of sport as a catalyst for social change has been shaken by shocking findings on the labour rights of migrants in Qatar ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In November, the human rights organisation Amnesty International launched a report on how the Qatari government failed to reform the systems and legislation that facilitate the abuse of migrant workers.
At the time, Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Head of Refugee and Migrants’ Rights at Amnesty International, said: “Time is running out fast. It has been four years since Qatar won the bid to host the World Cup, putting itself in the global spotlight, so far its response to migrant labour abuses has not been much more than promises of action and draft laws,
“Urgent action is needed to ensure we do not end up with a World Cup tournament that is built on forced labour and exploitation.”