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Beyond integration: Football as a mobile, transnational sphere of belonging for refugee-background young people

Nunn, Caitlin and Spaaij, Ramón and Luguetti, Carla (2021) Beyond integration: Football as a mobile, transnational sphere of belonging for refugee-background young people. Leisure Studies. ISSN 0261-4367

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Abstract

port is widely utilised as an integration tool for refugee-background young people in resettlement countries, with a concomitant research focus on the implementation and outcomes of health and integration initiatives. However, a narrow focus on integration as the context and outcome of sport participation limits our understanding of the wider role sport plays as a sphere of belonging for refugee-background young people. By taking a wider view of football that includes fandom, informal participation, and community sport, we can gain important insights into how it functions as a mobile, transnational sphere of belonging that can, for some, provide a continuous sense of embodied, affective, practical, and sociocultural belonging in the face of multiple migrations and transitions. Drawing on three ethnographic and participatory studies conducted with refugee-background young people in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Netherlands, this article explores the ways in which engagement with football both precedes and exceeds integration in the everyday lives of refugee-background young people. The authors demonstrate the need to place instrumental sports-based integration approaches in a wider transnational and historical context, and to attend to the wider affordances of sport for refugee-background young people.

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