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Fuss­ball ohne Ab­seits

Westcoast German News - - News - Au­thor: Nadja Baeva / nd Ed­i­tor: Dar­ren Mara

The project, called “Fuss­ball ohne ab­seits,” tar­gets ar­eas with large im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties - the name is a pun on the word “ab­seits” it is the Ger­man for the foot­ball term “off­side”, but also means stand­ing apart or out­side a com­mu­nity. Ten of the 14 girls at the soc­cer club come from im­mi­grant fam­i­lies, re­flect­ing the di­verse pop­u­la­tion in Alte­nessen, a dis­trict of the western city of Essen. “I play be­cause I need to lose some weight, be­cause I en­joy it and be­cause we’re part of a group,” says Zeliha Cakan, a nine year old with Turk­ish par­ents, who has been play­ing soc­cer for two years. Project lead­ers say they pro­vide chil­dren with a prime op­por­tu­nity to de­velop so­cial skills. “We want to in­te­grate girls, es­pe­cially girls with an im­mi­grant back­ground, into our so­ci­ety with soc­cer,” says Katha­rina Althoff from the Univer­sity of Duis­burg-Essen, one of the co­or­di­na­tors of the na­tion­wide ini­tia­tive. “In this way, they can learn as part of a com­mu­nity what it’s like to win and lose to­gether,” Althoff adds. The project is be­ing held in close co­op­er­a­tion with sur­round­ing soc­cer clubs so the girls can get to know other teams and have the op­por­tu­nity to take part in tour­na­ments.

Grow­ing ac­cep­tance

A new pro­gram is find­ing suc­cess us­ing soc­cer to help in­te­grate girls from im­mi­grant fam­i­lies into Ger­man so­ci­ety. “Foot­ball With­out Off­sides” is al­ready run­ning in 40 lo­ca­tions and is also help­ing grow the women’s game.

Girls take as much en­joy­ment from soc­cer as boys

The sports hall at a pri­mary school in the city of Essen is alive with en­ergy and a sense of fun as a ball is kicked around. But this time, per­haps un­ex­pect­edly, it’s not a group of boys play­ing soc­cer, but over a dozen young girls. Four­teen school girls - to be ex­act - in green jer­seys are run­ning through the hall, drib­bling and pass­ing al­most like pro­fes­sion­als. The third graders have been com­ing to the soc­cer club for two years now to en­joy their weekly train­ing.

Strength­en­ing so­cial skills

And the ear­lier the girls start play­ing soc­cer the bet­ter, says club di­rec­tor Inga Jür­gen. This is why the project is aimed at pri­mary school kids, adds the 23-year-old sports stu­dent from the Univer­sity of Duis­burg-Essen. Jür­gen used to play in the Women’s Bun­desliga with SG Essen Schönebeck, and knows what it takes to reach the top of the women’s game. “This op­por­tu­nity is re­ally im­por­tant for chil­dren with an im­mi­grant back­ground, be­cause they of­ten don’t get the op­por­tu­nity at home to be part of a club,” says Jür­gen, adding that this could be be­cause of fi­nan­cial con­straints or par­ents’ un­will­ing­ness to let their daugh­ters play with boys. “When it’s part of school life, it’s more ac­cepted by the par­ents, and they even want their chil­dren to play sports,” says Jür­gen. The Alte­nessen pri­mary school is one of 40 lo­ca­tions where the project takes place, and it is also sup­ported sci­en­tif­i­cally by the uni­ver­si­ties of Osnabrück, Olden­burg and Duis­burg-Essen and fi­nanced by the var­i­ous state gov­ern­ments in which pro­grams are run. All par­tic­i­pat­ing clubs are fully sub­scribed be­cause there’s so much in­ter­est from young girls, as the head­mas­ter of Essen Pri­mary School, Thomas Kri­esten, con­firms: “At first, par­ents were very cau­tious - ‘soc­cer for girls?’ But now I see how ex­cited the girls are to come. Other girls, who were quite skep­ti­cal at the start, of­ten also ask whether they can take part in the soc­cer club.”

A bridge to clubs

Win­ning a foot­ball tour­na­ment gives girls a boost in ev­ery­day life Train­ing meth­ods used in the project and par­tic­i­pa­tion at soc­cer tour­na­ments also carry other pos­i­tive ef­fects: The girls be­come more self-con­fi­dent as their achieve­ments are rec­og­nized at school, in their sur­round­ings and, in­creas­ingly, by their fam­i­lies. Nine-year-old Iman Achakaui is a prime ex­am­ple of this: “I wanted to learn some soc­cer skills be­cause my brother some­times hits me. And now I want to beat him in soc­cer,” says the third grader who is of Moroc­can de­cent. Join­ing a soc­cer club is just the be­gin­ning and of­ten leads to last­ing changes in the young girls’ lives. Co­or­di­na­tors with the project con­tinue to hear en­cour­ag­ing ex­am­ples of girls join­ing the club whose par­ents had pre­vi­ously banned them from tak­ing part. “When the fam­ily sees their daugh­ter in a tour­na­ment for the first time, if the girl shoots a goal and the whole fam­ily cheers, then most reser­va­tions have gone,” says project co­or­di­na­tor Katha­rina Althoff.

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