Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko - integration via sport

Everyone knows them and everyone likes them. The Ukrainian brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko have boxed themselves not only to the top of the world rankings, but also into Germans’ hearts. Their lives are prime examples of social integration via sport.


Yet the integrating power of sport works on a smaller scale, too: Through the pursuit of common goals and experiences, sport creates understanding where words no longer help.

Fighting through

The world class boxers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko are audience favourites in Germany. The Ukrainian sport stars are welcome guests on talk shows and popular faces in advertising; recently they have even demonstrated their skills as movie actors. The Klitschkos have fought their way up, in the fullest sense. Now a documentary film has been made that describes the most significant events in their lives (Klitschko, released in June)[anderen Artikel verlinken]. Their professional debut with a Hamburg-based boxing promoter in 1996 marked the start of a storybook career, which wouldn't have been impossible beyond sport.

Shared experiences in sports clubs

Although careers such as the Klitschko brothers’ are not unique in Germany, these two likeable boxers have become special role models. They show that wherever ambition and talent coincide, sport can open up a foreign society. – and not just for exceptional sportsmen like the Klitschko brothers. Sports clubs provide an ideal setting for people to interact despite their cultural differences. Nowhere is the unifying power of sport more tangible than on the football field, where players from different backgrounds can often barely understand each other. So how is it that they play so well together? Evidently looks and gestures, and the desire to win are more effective than words. However, it’s a different proposition in the professional game. Here you often hear discriminatory abuse of one kind or another coming from the terraces. But it’s a problem the clubs and the German Football Association are already responding to. With initiatives, such as ‘Stay on the ball! Football against racism and discrimination’ (www.amballbleiben.org) they are appealing for tolerance and fair play.

Sport promotes integration

Politicians, too, have understood the unifying power of sport. Events run by initiatives such as ‘Integration through sport in Bavaria’ are intended to support integration. ‘Streetsoccer-Mobil’ is not just about who shoots the most goals; it also promotes fairness and interaction between young people from both German and immigrant backgrounds. Points are deducted for fouls or added for supportive gestures such as a slap on the back.

The private sector also uses sport. In particular, large international enterprises view corporate sports a good opportunity. Not only does it improve the performance of the staff and the atmosphere in the workplace, there’s also no better way for colleagues from different cultural backgrounds to bond than in a football match or a game of basketball after work.

Sport for muslim women and girls

Immigrants from all over the world have influenced German sport. Yet one group is hardly represented: Muslim women and girls. To find out why this is – and why, of all sports, it is boxing that Muslim parents are most likely to tolerate for their daughters – have a look at the following article in Der Spiegel:

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