Sport - Participation - Perspectives

“Sport is a way to overcome barriers between people of different colour, beliefs and nationalities.” This is the message of salvation the German Government spreads in the federal programme “Integration through sport”. Sport is granted a central place in the political and general social discourse concerning integration, inclusion and international understanding. This is also how sport appears in media productions. Sport plays a prominent part in the Federal Government’s “National Action Plan on Integration” (2012). Since 2007, there has even been an established sports dialogue forum. Its alleged fundamental inclusive effect is twofold. On the one hand, there is integration into sport and on the other, integration through sport.

Integration into sport is focused on increasing the possibilities of participation in the cultural field of recreational and sports activities. According to a holistic understanding, sport has an educational value that stands next to its health-supporting and therefore life-enhancing value. Integration through sport means that exercise in a group, especially in an official club, offers various possibilities to interact socially beyond linguistic barriers. Sport is considered to have an impact on social inclusion. Advocates of this concept propose that succeeding in sport requires skills that would also be also of use in other social areas.

This one-dimensional notion of sport as a “vehicle of integration” ignores its segregating potential. There is hardly any area of social life where misfortune and exclusion have such an obvious physical and emotional impact.

The focal point “Sport – participation – perspectives” addresses this dynamic of sport between inclusion and exclusion. A critical, constructive, empirically orientated and theoretically well-grounded discussion has to take place which considers both inclusion and exclusion processes. Exercising and recreational activities open up opportunities but also have limits. A scientific reflection on them has to take categories like alienation and social belonging into account but also the educational potential of sport.

Another focus is labelled “Creating margins to play with”. This is where practical, low-threshold, educational projects related to sport and body movement are targeted to different groups (children and teenagers with a migration background for example), designed, carried out and evaluated.


Sport teachers with a migration background: Educational integration processes in Lower Saxony

The current discussion about the integration of people with a migration background highlights again that educational integration in Germany has failed. The unemployment rate among immigrants is twice as high as the rate among Germans. Immigrants are also twice as often threatened to fall below the poverty line (cf. Engels et al., 2012). This pressing problem must be faced by society. It is already present in political discussions. “Germany needs more qualified teachers with a migration background!”, “Migrants in front of the class!” these are some of the political slogans we have heard at federal and state level for quite some time. They repeat the common diagnosis that Germany still has great potential for development concerning the educational integration of people with a migration background – to put a positive spin on it. In Lower Saxony, it is a declared political goal to take measures to facilitate educational integration and increase the number of qualified teachers with a migration background.

In the political context of integrating people with a migration background, sport has almost traditionally been considered as an important factor. The programme “Integration through sport” (realised by the German Olympic Sports Confederation) for example is financially very well supported by the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. It was introduced in the late 1980s. Since then, it has continuously been evaluated and developed. The initiative has two main goals. The first goal is the integration of people with a migration background into sport. When they participate in sport it means that they equally participate in a culture of exercising and recreational activities. Therefore they participate in society. The integration through sport is the second goal. It is pointed out that sport – especially when practiced in a club – offers various possibilities to interact socially beyond linguistic barriers and to experience a sense of community. Advocates of this concept propose that succeeding in sport requires skills that would also be of use in other social areas.

Examining biographies of qualified sports teachers with a migration background has a methodical advantage when talking about integration and sport. The common approach focusses on educational obstacles that have prevented integration. But factors for success in processes of educational integration have to be identified. The qualitative-empiric, biographically orientated research approach answers two specific questions: What did migrants do right who succeeded in the German educational system, and what did sport have to do with it?

Head of project: Prof. Dr. Vera Volkmann


“FuNah”– Football and private tuition at elementary and secondary schools

FuNah initially was part of the local action plan of the city of Peine. The action plan is supported within the Federal programme “Promoting tolerance – strengthening competence” that was put into action by the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. In the meantime, the project has become a registered association (e. V.) and is located at four schools in the region of Hildesheim.

In 2018, the project won the "Peace Prize of the Hildesheim Peace Day". According to the winner's certificate, FuNah e.V. "contributes in a special way to peace and reconciliation in the city and among the inhabitants".

The initiative was conceived as a pilot project. At Gunzelin secondary school in Peine, pupils from fifth and sixth grade can attend a combination of sports activities and tuition.

Once a week, an extracurricular sports activity (mostly football) takes place on the school premises, supervised by qualified sport students. The football game is structured by clear rules and characterized by including a variety of methods. After the sports activity, the same students who supervised the sports unit support the participating pupils individually as tutors. Anyone can join the group – regardless of their athletic talent or other requirements – but everyone has to participate regularly for a specified period of time in both sport and tuition.

At the beginning, the group establishes a set of rules of conduct together. The children are urged to watch out if the game is played by the rules. Under guidance, they learn how to respect values like fair play, equality, mutual understanding, camaraderie and commitment.

Directly after the sports activity, the pupils are taught individually in their weak school subject areas by one of the sports teachers. It is vital to maintain the casual atmosphere and the experience of a sense of community in this phase. The learning support comes without pressure and hierarchical structures when the children worktogether towards shared goals.



Heads of project: Omar Fahmy, Dominik Feer, Prof. Dr. Vera Volkmann