Football as an example of social cohesion

Red Devils players Eden Hazard, Christian Benteke, Marouane Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj are inseparable. And in a country with deep racial and religious divides, their friendship is a high-profile example of Belgian unity.

Marjan Justaert
Marjan Justaert De Standaard, Belgium
Source: De Standaard
Football as an example of social cohesion - NewsMavens
Christian Benteke , Marouane Fellaini & Michy Batshuayi Copyright Danny Gys / Reporters Reporters / GYS

Why this story matters:

Since 2014, there's been an upsurge in support for the national football team "the Red Devils". 

This has come as a surprise in strongly divided Belgium, where national identity is very weak and "societal integration" is a daily flashpoint.

The team is still in the running for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and coverage shows that for this generation of international soccer players, diversity is an asset rather than a liability.

Diversity in Belgium has a checkered history. Local governments are rarely equipped to engage with minority groups, whether they are Muslim or Hasidic. And on a cultural level things are not always easy either, such as when a Muslim-run soccer club caused controversy by banning alcohol. Given the complexity of the super-diverse Belgian society, role models like Hazard, Benteke, Fellaini and Januzaj are essential. 

Of course, friendship might not be enough for the Red Devils to win the World Cup, but still, Belgians will be full of hope, whatever their color or background.

Details from the story:

  • There used to be a considerable gap between Belgium's French- and Dutch-speaking players, but former coach Marc Wilmots insisted on bridging the gap. With new coach Roberto Martinez, the integration continues.
  • The friendship between the stars of the team -- whether they are white, black or Muslim -- is real. People notice their spontaneous way of relating to one another.
  • Neither culture nor religion is an issue: Mousa Dembélé, for example, takes out the Quran whenever he can and prays before every match, but nobody criticizes him.
  • The recent success of the extreme-right party FN (Front National) shows that it is harder to keep camaraderie and unity alive once people are off the playing field.
inbox_large_illu Created with Sketch.
Tired of the news media’s prevailing male perspective? We are too.

Get our newsletters composed exclusively by female journalists from all over Europe.

WITH FINANCIAL SUPPORT FROM:
SUPPORTED BY:

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

STRATEGIC PARTNERS:
NewsMavens
NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
Is something happening in your country that Newsmavens should cover?
CORE TEAM
Zuzanna Ziomecka
Zuzanna Ziomecka EDITOR IN CHIEF
Lea Berriault-Jauvin
Lea Berriault Managing Editor
Jessica Sirotin
Jessica Sirotin EDITOR
Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko EDITOR
Gazeta Wyborcza, Agora SA Czerska 8/10 00-732, Warsaw Poland
The e-mail addresses provided above are not intended for recruitment purposes. Messages concerning recruitment will be deleted immediately. Your personal data provided as part of your correspondence with Zuzanna,Lea, Jessica and Ada will be processed for the purpose of resolving the issue you contacted us about. The data provided in your email is controlled by Agora S.A. with its registered office in Warsaw Czerska 8/10 Street (00-732). You can find more information about the processing and protection of your personal data at https://newsmavens.com/transparency-policy
System.Threading.Tasks.Task`1[System.Threading.Tasks.VoidTaskResult];