Campus - 04.12.2016 - 00:00 

Integration through sports

The CEMS Club St.Gallen invited unescorted, underage asylum-seekers to a sports event for the second time this year. 27 young Afghans came and obviously had great fun in the HSG Sports Hall.

6 December 2016. "The sports event in the spring was such a great success that we decided to repeat it," says Zsolt Pap, who had just arrived with a group of asylum-seeking young people in the Sports Hall in Bodanstrasse. A second group was already on the field and was warming up with a variety of ball games. This Saturday, a tournament with football and volleyball was ahead of them.

Games ran smoothly

Zsolt Pap and Club President Sarah Pohl first explained the rules to the boys. The five teams were to play each other alternately for ten minutes. The tournament would go on until all of them had faced each other both in football and in volley ball. The young asylum-seekers listened attentively. Some of them nodded, others said "Yes, understand". When it came to dividing them up into the teams Yellow, Blue, Green, Pink and Red, however, it appeared that the explanations in German had not been understood in detail all the same.

But after the first whistle for kick-off, difficulties with a foreign language ceased to play a part. Football rules are clear anyway, and after a few teething problems, the volleyball game also proceeded smoothly. While four teams were in action, one took a break in rotation and watched the action. And as is par for the course for boys between 13 and 17 years of age, they were full of mischief: at every opportunity, they shouted "foul, foul, foul" at their playing friends and laughed their heads off.

Learning a trade, doing sports

At present, the underage Afghans live in the Thurhof Centre in Oberbüren, where they are looked after in a special youth programme. Most of them set off on their travels from their home country to Europe under their own steam, are under 18 years old, separated from both parents, and have been in Switzerland for just over a year. The sports event of the CEMS Club St.Gallen was great fun, they all said unanimously. "I’d like best to come here every day," explains 16-year-old Yadzari.

When they were asked about their wishes for the future, their answers were much of a muchness. "Staying in Switzerland, learning a trade and doing sports." Preferred trades included electrician, mechanic and employee in a restaurant. "I’d like to go to the academic-stream secondary school, but that won’t work out because you have to have too much previous knowledge," regretted 15-year-old Ali. All of them were aware that a command of the German language was an important prerequisite for integration in the host country. 16-year-old Irfanullah also exercises his newly acquired knowledge of German in sports: he attends handball training sessions in Bischofszell twice a week.

Integration through sports

The five teams were also joined by students from the University of St.Gallen since the motto is "Integration through sports". They fought for victory and honour with all they could give. In the end, team Yellow took the crown, closely followed by Green and Pink. Sarah Pohl and Zsolt Pap took stock of Saturday’s sports event: "The youngsters' joy was evident. This alone makes the event a success."

The CEMS Club St.Gallen had launched the sports event this spring. "The refugee crisis prompted us to think about what contribution we could make towards integration. This is how the idea of a tournament was born," explained the organisers of the first sports event at the time. Exchange and internationality were among the most important goals of CEMS. "In the Club, we learn to live and work with international and very different people from day one. We practise tolerance and open-mindedness. Also, helping other people strengthens your mind."

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