Refugees and asylum-seekers living in centres in eastern Denmark will compete against each other in a refugee-only football league aimed at facilitating integration into society through sport and competition.
(June 14) – The pilot project is the idea of Per Bjerregaard, former chairman of the top-flight Danish club Brondby IF, and results of a collaboration between the Danish Football Association (DBU), Red Cross Denmark and the humanitarian Tryg Foundation to ease integration of the refugees arriving in the Nordic country.
Asylliga, the Asylum League, is due to kick-off in August with the help of Danish football names including former Danish national team manager Morten Olsen and ex-Celtic midfielder Morten Wieghorst, who agreed to help with coaching the players.
“Asylum seekers can get exercise and variety in their daily lives, and get easier access to other Danes and associations in Denmark. In this way we can facilitate integration through football.” explained Bjerregaard.
In its first edition, the UEFA-bakced project will be based in four refugee centres in Avnstrup, Dianalund, Kalundborg and Korsor, but the organisers plan to make of it a nationwide initiative in the future. In the longer term, the goal is for the players to join regular Danish soccer clubs and play alongside Danish players.
Kasper Koch, the head of strategy and project development at Red Cross Asylum, said the project will help create opportunities for asylum-seekers to stay in Denmark and find jobs.
“Being part of an association is a huge key to getting a residence permit and to integration,” said Koch. “You can also build a good network through sport, and we know that about three quarters of all jobs come through personal networks.”
In 2015, Denmark accepted a total of 20,000 refugees. Earlier this year the country was criticised for its harsh stance toward refugees and its newly adopted anti-refugee policies.