Harnessing Social Capital through Sport: Exploring the role of Football in the socio-economic integration of African migrants in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Detta är en Master-uppsats från Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för socialt arbete

Sammanfattning: Integration ought to be a two-way process, requiring adjustments from both migrants and native residents. However, more adaptation is often required of and indeed achieved by the migrants than host communities. Fortunately, participation avenues such as sport offer opportunities for these migrants to interact with and learn from host communities. This study therefore explored how African migrants utilize football to create social relations and develop social capital, necessary for their integration into Gothenburg, Sweden. Four major research questions were to be answered; 1.What motivates African migrants in Sweden to participate in football? 2. How do African migrants build and maintain social networks and social capital through football? 3. How do the football-harnessed social capital and networks influence the migrants’ socio-economic integration into Swedish society? And 4.What limits football’s capacity to promote socio-economic integration of African migrants? The study employed a purely qualitative methodology, specifically semi-structured in-depth interviews which were conducted digitally, via Zoom. Ten adult African migrants living in Gothenburg were interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide. Thematic analysis guided interpretation and categorization of interview transcripts while the Social capital theory and Conceptual framework for understanding integration formed the theoretical and analytical framework.The main findings indicated that African migrants greatly benefited from football-based social connections and relations which made their socio-economic integration in Sweden easier by linking them to relevant socio-economic sectors. The harnessed social capital also eased the migrants’ learning of the Swedish language and offered other benefits. But first, they were motivated to participate in football by personal goals, social support and a wider conducive sporting environment. Initiating and strengthening football-based social relations was portrayed as gradual, continuous and reliant on deliberate efforts of “doing football relationships”, personality traits, physical proximity and commonalities among others. The study realized a reciprocal and cyclic relationship between social relations, social capital and football in that these supplemented and led to each other. Unfortunately, various factors such as the weaknesses of football-built social capital, legal residence, competing needs and transnational responsibilities among others somewhat limited football’s capacity to promote. Fortunately, gaps left by football were filled by alternative mechanisms for harnessing social capital including state support, alternative hobbies, migrant associations, religious groups and the internet among others. Conclusively, the composition of one’s football team in terms of homogeneity or heterogeneity determined whether they built more bonding or bridging social capital. In other words, African migrants easily built social capital in homogenous groups, largely composed of fellow migrants and vice versa.

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