The importance of football for refugees and asylum seekers

UEFA

A recipient of a UEFA research grant for 2019/20, Dr Rahela Jurković talked to UEFA Direct about the importance of football for refugees.

Dr Rahela Jurković was one of six recipients of a UEFA research grant for 2019/20 for a project titled ‘Football and refugees: cultural anthropology of the Balkan corridor’.

With the results of her research now presented to the UEFA Research Grant Jury, Dr Jurković talked to UEFA Direct about the importance of football for refugees and asylum seekers in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, North Macedonia and Serbia.

What led you into this area of research?

The first trigger was the fact that for my doctoral dissertation – on the integration of refugees in Croatian society – I found out that football is one way to integrate people and that many refugees in Croatia play football. The second was that in 2015 and 2016, there were over 600,000 refugees and asylum seekers who passed through the ‘Balkan corridor’, so my idea was to research those countries. In cultural anthropology, which is my field, sport hasn’t been researched a lot, but I received support from the Croatian Football Federation, which suggested I research other countries too.

How challenging was the process of going out in the field?

The research period was eight months, from September 2019 to April this year, and I had to cover five countries. I had some assistance from interpreters – cultural mediators, let’s say – but the main work was done by myself. In Greece, I had only one or two contacts. I went first to Thessaloníki, and was walking around thinking, “How am I going to find migrants who play football?” But a key contact – a ‘gatekeeper’ as we call them in cultural anthropology – helped me, and I was able to reach more than I’d targeted. In total, I interviewed 71 refugees in these five countries and 13 people working with refugees and football.

The original article can be found here

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