December 2016

Last modified: 22.12.2016


We would like to wish all our members Happy Holidays and the very best for the New Year!    


Expected dates: 5, 6 & 7 July 2017
Venue: Sandbjerg Estate, Denmark

In the era of rapid globalisation processes, the recent global refugee crisis along with the rise of nationalism, anti-immigration policies and right-wing parties in Western societies, it is more timely than ever before to scrutinize the role sports may play in migration processes.

Sport seems to hold a paradoxical role. On the one hand, the global migration of athletes is far from declining. More and more nation states and their sport associations recruit migrant athletes and showcase increasingly more diverse teams. On the other hand, sport is also regarded as an important means for integrating (or rather assimilating) ethnic minority groups as numerous initiatives and programs indicate.

We would like to take this seeming paradox as a point of departure for discussing the role of sport in migration processes. The seminar will be set up for members of the International Network for Research in Sport and Migration Issues, and welcome presentations of papers that engage with this topic. We will further take this opportunity to plan a joint publication (a special issue) and further activities in the network. We will apply for funds and try to cover most of the expenses of this seminar. Travel expenses are to be paid by the participants. Please save the date! More information follows.    


Despite a growing body of work that point to precarious conditions in global professional football, football is still considered a ‘labour of love’ and a popular work trajectory among young people across the world. For many, the fame and recognition of the sport’s celebrities and the possibility of following in their footsteps may outshine its risks, uncertain career pathways and limited chances of success. Migrant footballers are believed to be particularly vulnerable to global football’s precarity and face a number of challenges. A recent report by the world players’ union of professional footballers FIFPro underlines this.

According to FIFpro, migrants in global professional football are particularly affected by various forms of discrimination in their clubs (e.g. to put pressure on a player to terminate a contract or to agree to a transfer, etc.). Those forms range from isolated training and late payment to even physical violence and racial abuse. There are differences in the scale of this tendency in the various countries, however, in general, migrant players are twice as likely to be victims of discrimination compared to domestic players.

In addition, FIFpro has revealed a number of general challenges and insecurities in professional football all over the world. Most remarkable is perhaps the huge gap in net salaries, indicating a problematic inequality in the business: while only two percent of professional players in the world earn more than 60.000 USD a month only 40 percent receive more than 2000 USD and 20 percent receive even less than 300 USD. Again, these numbers need to be contextualized according to the national context of wage levels and living costs. However, the high percentage of rather low salaries point to the problem of precarious economic conditions during careers and little possibilities for securing post career livelihoods.

FIFPro’s study is based on the experiences of 14.000 professional footballers all over the world. Its wide scope gives an idea about the reach of precarious conditions in global professional football.

Find the link to FIFPro’s report here:
Christian Ungruhe, Aarhus University


Max Mauro

The Balotelli Generation 

Issues of Inclusion and Belonging in Italian Football and Society 

(Peter Lang, 2016)

Young people growing up in Europe are immersed in societies that are increasingly diverse in terms of ethnic, national and racial backgrounds. Issues of inclusion and belonging are at the forefront of policy discussions and media discourses. At the same time, the lives of non-EU nationals living in Europe are encapsulated in and confined by a multiplicity of legal categories, such as, for example: economic migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors, extracomunitari, clandestini,sans papier and others. These categories, while highlighting the disconnection between the rights of the man and the rights of the citizen, reflect different levels of rights recognized to immigrants and arguably complicate potential patterns of inclusion and belonging. Unsurprisingly, the diminished citizenship statuses of immigrants are reflected in their sporting practices and in the sporting practices of their children.

As a country of relatively short immigration history and with a great passion for sport, Italy makes a compelling case at which to situate an analysis of sport participation of youth of immigrant background and issues of representation in relation to national identity. Football is the most popular sport in the country and it is the sport that attracts the highest numbers of migrant youth. Their growing participation’s rate appears to confirm the inclusive power of football. However, young non-EU players, many of them born or raised in Italy, may share a different view of their reality. From lengthy and complicated registration rules, to limitations to the signing of non-EU players in lower professional leagues, and finally to manifestations of racism in youth and grassroots football which go often undetected, their stories bring about a little known perspective on the state of football in one of the game’s leading countries.

The book originates from 40 in-depth interviews with male young players aged 17-23, born in Italy to immigrant parents or raised in Italy since their childhood. It further collates over 30 interviews and conversations with coaches, club and league administrators, educators, and migrants’ rights activists. Analysis of official documents and media analysis further contribute to the construction of a specific body of knowledge. Drawing on cultural studies and critical pedagogy frameworks, the research attributed particular importance to making the young participants’ voices be heard and to undertake research which is as much as possible with rather than on youth. 

The young participants represent the “Balotelli generation”, as national media defined the second generation of immigration to Italy. Mario Balotelli’s personal trajectory as the first child of immigrant parents to be capped by the national team, and the first black Italian football star, could obviously not be left outside the scope of this study. Two aspects of Balotelli’s personal story are reflected in many of the interviews: the long process to acquire Italian citizenship for those who are born or raised in Italy; and issues of racism on and off the pitch. Both aspects of Balotelli’s biography testify to different forms of discrimination experienced by young footballers of immigrant background. Their uncertain citizenship status prevents them from progressing in sport and representing the country where they live and very often feel is their own. Manifestations of racism are the expression of a wider negative discourse on immigration that permeates Italian society and many European societies today.  Organized football, both at elite and grassroots level, reflects and, to some extent, contributes to such a discourse.s.


The Network is happy to welcome the following new members:

Mark Hann (PhD Study Group) 

Mark Hann is a PhD candidate in social anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. A member of the ERC funded project GLOBALSPORT, his research focuses on the precarious trajectories of young wrestlers and football players in Senegal as they seek to translate their body capital into wealth, fame and success. His research interests include magico-religious beliefs and practices, the migration and mobility of athletes and changing paradigms of masculinity.

Jacco van Sterkenburg 

Jacco van Sterkenburg works as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Media & Communication at Erasmus University, the Netherlands. He obtained his PhD at the Humanities faculty of Utrecht University in 2011. Jacco van Sterkenburg’s dissertation Race, Ethnicity and the Sport Media dealt with sport media representations of race/ethnicity and gender. For the past years, Jacco van Sterkenburg’s research focused in particular on the following topics:

• race/ethnicity and gender in mediated football in an internationally comparative perspective;
• media, migration and diversity in a Dutch and European perspective;
• cultural racism, migration and whiteness in society at large and in football in particular;
• Nationality changes and migration patterns in football and sport, and changing ideas on citizenship

Ramon Spaaij 

Spaaij is employed as a professor at Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living, Victoria University, Australia & University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. A considerable part of his recent and current research focuses on the role of sports for ethnic minority and diaspora groups, with a particular focus on refugee settlement, social inclusion/exclusion, social and cultural capital, and belonging. Currently he conducts research in this area in both the Netherlands and Australia.

Max Mauro 

Mauro is employed as a lecturer at School of Business, Law and Communication, Southampton Solent University, UK. He is a writer and a lecturer focusing mainly on migration, sport and youth cultures. He has a particular interest in the development of sense of belonging to a place, community, and a country and how it is negotiated in a through leisure practices.

Itamar Dubinsky (PhD Study Group) 

Dubinsky is a PhD student at Department of Politics and Government, Ben-Gurion University, Israel. His interest in sport migration is concerned with the role football academies in Ghana play among local communities. His PhD research asks what do local actors and communities mean when they say that academies can facilitate development. Dubinsky seeks to shed light on these academies as a site of emerging discourses and practices that reflect local agendas, local cultures, societies and resources.

Åse Strandbu 

Aase Standbu is a professor at Department of Culture and Social Studies, Norwegian School of Sport Studies, Norway. Her main research topic is youth sport at the grass root level. Also, she has conducted research on the participation of young women and men with immigrant background in sport. :



The sport and migration network invites all PhD students in the field of sport and migration to join the network and share information about their projects and ongoing work. To ensure that we are up to date with the latest research in sport and migration we have created a study group for PhD students. Contrary to becoming a full member of the sport and migration network, you do not need international publications to be a part of the PhD study group; all we ask for are that you have a project description and a willingness to contribute to the network.

Apply as a member of the PhD study group using the ‘apply for membership’-link on the bottom of the front page of – remember to tick of the PhD study group box.

If you have any questions, feel free to address them to


For the coming newsletters it will be possible to present new studies and discuss interesting findings. We would also like to encourage members to inform us of job adverts, conferences and books that may be of interest to the network. We have deadlines for submission to our newsletter on a quarterly basis; December 1, March 1, June 1 and September 1. 

Please direct this information to