Minister Carl Haglund: Sports is an underused yet vital tool for migrant inclusion

by , under Migrant Tales

A group of 60 experts and others interested in the field of sports and social issues agreed with Minister of Sports Carl Haglund, who stated Friday in Helsinki that sports is an underused tool for social participation and action.

“It’s a shame [that sports is so underused],” said Haglund, “since it would be a very powerful tool that’s fun as well [to help migrants become a part of society].”

The minister stressed as well the importance of organizations representing migrants participating in government sports programs.

From left to right: Daryl Taylor, Nicky Verschraegen, Obiora Aniche, Carl Haglund, Peter K. Kariuki, Ayisat Success Yusuf and Yvette Ayivi.

Minister Haglund was a special panel guest at Eric Cantonas’ documentary, Les Rebelles du Food, together with other sports personalities such as HJK star-striker Aniche Obiora and African Cup winner Ayisat Yusuf-Aromire.

Former Manchester United star Eric Cantona presented in the documentary the life stories of five football heroes whose social awakening led them to challenge autocratic regimes in Africa, join opposition movements and lead the fight for democracy and human rights.

Nicky Verschragen of RASMUS ry, an anti-racism NGO, presented the online reporting forum where one can report hate speech during the ongoing April 19 parliamentary election campaign. The report will be evaluated and reported throughout the EU.

Yvette Ayivi, who had organized the world forum for sports and inclusion in Paris, told the audience about Cantonas’ motivation for doing the documentary and the tense situation in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January.

Daryl Taylor noted that sports plays an extremely important role for many migrants and that the Finland should be made more aware of that.

The event also presented the KAAMOS exhibit. Participants enjoyed getting photographed with their favorite posters.

From left to right: Hodan Shankaroon, Yvette Ayivi and Ayisat Success Yusuf.

Candidate for parliament Ahmed Hassan told the participants about the difficulties he experienced when trying to find public support for the Finnish Somali Sports Federation. The forum was very surprised to hear what Hassan said in light of the important role that sports plays among migrant groups.

ETNO Secretary General Mr. Peter Kariuki, stressed the importance of migrant participation in mainstream sports as well as the possibility of migrants to organize sports association and groups.

ETNO is a ministry of interior advisory board for ethnic relations.

One of the questions that the panelists and audience had was when and where Finland’s very own Zlatan would appear?

The event was organized by Liikkukaa – Sports For All, Ei Rasismille, KanSu – Our Finland is International and the national network against racism and xenophobia, RASMUS ry.

Delicious Nepalese food was served at the event.

  1. Yossie

    Sure, sports can be a great way to integrate people. Natural way to come in contact with Finns while doing meaningful activity together. However that does not seem to be the aim with some people in this article. Its about your own ethnic group having your own association, team, whatever. Public funded of course. One way to milk money for yourself in disguise of “integration”.

    Sport can integrate when immigrants come to play with finns, it does not if they play with themselves.

  2. Jacques

    Thank you, Yossie, for expressing your fears so clearly. Are you sure the main role of sports is integration? Why should sports for already ´integrated´ people be supported then? Should any other specific groups apart from migrants be supported in the way they are? Could you imagine migrants having any other benefits from participating in sports? Is the well being of people within the country not a good base for participation in society? Are you sure there is a place for every migrant in the existing teams and groups? Would it be so terrible if migrants would be
    empowered to run associations? Could you imagine them learning something about our country’s rules and ways by doing so? Thank you for providing answers on those questions, maybe we understand your motivation better then.

  3. Yossie

    Hey Jacques

    Do not understand me wrong. I don’t see the integration as a main reason to publicly fund sports. I my opinion, the reason government should fund sports is the derived health benefits. This should absolutely be the most important metric, not gold medals in professional sports. Because of the topic of the article I noted sports can be a good way to integrate people too.

    My criticism comes from the fact that I see “integration” as catch word for certain people (this does include native finns too, not just immigrants) to get funded in their own little pet projects of questionable benefits and lacking accountability.

    I don’t personally see benefits of having multiple parallel organizations divided by ethnic lines to reach the same goal. I see it as inefficient and waste of tax payers’ money. It bloats already bloated public sector and benefits only the handful of people that get the money. It is also questionable how well the benefits of these parallel organizations can be accounted and assessed for.

    All sport teams are open to immigrants just like they are open to native finns too. If there is no spots for immigrants, then the same applies for the native too and it would not be a issue that would need to be addressed by ethnic segregated teams.

    I think immigrants would learn the best by taking parts to existing structures without making their own. Having their own structures would enable most of the people just stay in their own comfort zones with their own country men, and most likely handful of already “integrated” people would be running the show to get their hands on public money.

    • Migrant Tales

      Yossie, then you should tell the Finns that emigrated abroad to not build their own associations and schools. We could start with the Finnish school in Fuengirola. It’s dumb that Finnish kids don’t adapt to Spain and go to Finnish schools. Why should they even learn Finnish. They won’t need it because so few speak the language anyway. This will only help them live better lives when they are forced to adapt and nobody cares about their background. Is this what you mean?

  4. Yossie

    If the aim is for the kids to live their life in Spain and integrate them to society, then yes it would be pretty dumb. Not to mention it would be dumb for Finland to pay for such education.

    Many emigrants and their children have made the conclusion that finnish is not very useful outside of Finland. Even at best the 3rd generation and usually the second generation does not speak Finnish. I´m sure you have personal experience. That is why it is extremely important that finnish stay the uncontested language in Finland. Even slightest attempts to undermine it will risk the existence of whole language.

  5. Jacques

    Risk the existence of the FInnish language..!? That sounds a bit paranoid and totally out of proportion. Am sharing your views on the value of sports though.. Still, parallel structures and places where you can meet people who understand you and which you can visit once or twice a week, dont hurt. They rather help you to catch a breath from your (integrated) everyday life (amongst many other things). Whats important is, that there still is some social cohesion between all those structures and people.

  6. Jacques

    Apart from that, there is even one more thing on which i agree with you: ´Integration´ is a much over-used trigger word in many ways. The article mentions ´inclusion´, much preferable. Also correct, it is not easy to join sports for a lot of (white-skinned) natives as well, yet it is a totally different story for migrants, plus i trust, the former have their structures and lobbying pretty much in place, right?

  7. Yossie

    Catch a breath from your integrated everyday life? It all depends how integrated your life is. If you live in an area that is filled with your country men, have friends that are your country men, then how integrated your life is? I think the danger is that it will become one more way to just live in your own enclave.

    What the article is talking about is a X-X sports federation. To me it sounds very much a top level organization. What would be its purpose? Get public funded to lobby more public funds for your own ethnic group? Somehow I doubt this is a recipe for social cohesions when different ethnic groups have their own associations to fight over resources.

    If the aim is to have structures for different ethnic groups to just be with themselves, then it should absolutely not be advertised as something that integrates people. They should be honest about it and admit its their own cultural preservation thing.

    • Migrant Tales

      So what are you saying that ONLY sports associations run by white Finns is the only way to integrate into society. Yossie, take a look at our constitution that ACCEPTS cultural diversity as one value of our society. The constitution doesn’t support one-way adaption never mind amalgamation even if that is what really happens.

    • Yossie

      How I see, we don’t need parallel associations, we don’t need more resources poured to bureaucratic paper pushers. Resources need to go to concrete things that enable most number of people to take part in sports: fields, tracks and such things.

      These parallel organizations are in high risk of being just money milking machines for certain individuals in said organization. Example of this is how couple of years back we had this study group of higher ups trying to make plans to get more athletes to top sports. Results were just a lot of used money and very little of any results.

      I don’t see how doing things with JUST your country men will integrate you to anything but your own culture.

  8. Jacques

    Maybe you take a look at those associations and those associations work, before you start judging? Maybe it is the traditional structures who are milking the word ´integration´? Add another few hundred thousands to their already existing millions of support and changing… nothing!

  9. Jacques

    Also, where do you see those enclaves full of foreigners of one nation where nobody ever gets out to interact with any other people? Those could be a tourist attraction! Do you really live in Finland? Most people have jobs where they have Finnish colleagues, they have Finnish wifes with Finnish Families, go to Finnish schools and now here is the big surprise for you, even speak Finnish in those clubs you are bashing! How much more integrated would you like those people to be? No sorry, they wont change their colour of skin for you! Yeah, to bad they like to see some people from time to time who understand them better than you obviously do!

    • Yossie


      Like I said, it all depends how integrated you are and what is the purpose of the team. If you apply for money with grounds of integrating non-integrated immigrants and then having a ethnic-segregated team, then I would question the initiative. If you on other hand apply for money with grounds of some cultural preservation, then having ethnic-segregated team might make sense.

      Having teams or clubs is one thing, but having a full blown own ethnic specific sport federation is totally different. What would be the purpose of that? Lobby as much resources as possible for your own ethnic group? You think social cohesion will be improved when one ethnic group gets something and some other don’t? I think the situation would be less dangerous if ski jumpers complain that skiers get more resources they deserver than if the situation was between ethnic groups.

  10. Jacques

    If we have identified health risks and other costly risks in one specific group, as we have, in case you followed the past years news and our existing structures are finding it difficult to reach out to this group, should we not think out of the box a little than?

  11. Jacques

    If we have identified health risks and other costly risks in one specific group, as we have, in case you followed the past years news and our existing structures are finding it difficult to reach out to this group, should we not think out of the box a little than? After all, you stated already above, that the first target for sports should be promoting mental and physical health. Maybe you could consider to extent ´Mens sana in corpore sano´ into ´Sanus cives pro communitate sanus´ – Healthy citizens for a healthy country..

    And here just one example of the many different efforts people make, you should even like this, as language appears to be such a central question to you:

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