Allison Thompson – Youth Football as a Tool for Cultural (re) Integration

Video of Allison Thompson (International Academy Berlin / Institute Heritage Studies) delivering her presentation at the Football, Politics and Popular Culture conference, Limerick (2017).


Youth Football as a Tool for Cultural (Re) Integration

Allison S. Thompson – International Academy Berlin / Institute Heritage Studies

Particularly vulnerable to exclusion, youth who have experienced trauma face a loss of
identity and cultural belonging which can lead to an increased occurrence of negative
social behaviors and emotional development. Even though youth are key to creating a
sustainable future, current approaches at (re)integration are ill-equipped to handle the
growing challenges of the 21st century. This paper explores the correlation between
trauma and youth cultural identity, but more specifically, how football-based
programming can be used to help (re)integrate youth into society. The term (re)integrate
is used to separate the first time integration in a foreign environment (refugees) versus
reintegration and a return to the familiar community (child soldiers, juvenile offenders). I aim to show that opposed to traditional non-sport programming, the incorporation of
football can lead to higher participation and better long-term results. Current methods of
youth (re)integration must be reevaluated and new interdisciplinary and cross-cultural
programming should be implemented that are active and socially relevant. Intertwined
with development and traditional education, if used properly, football is a low-cost,
high-impact tool that can be used to achieve desirable socio-cultural outcomes, including
empowerment, inclusion, tolerance and gender equality. To this end, I will examine
various facets that must be considered, such as rule changes and an emphasis on learning rather than competition. Furthermore, I will take a critical look at existing initiatives geared towards youth who have experienced trauma and make suggestions as to how football could be used in the future.

Allison holds a BA from Brandeis University, MSc from Simmons College and MA from
Brandenburg University of Technology where her thesis offered a reconceptualization of sport for the purpose of cultural development. Interested in using sports for education and social change, Allison has previously worked for America Scores Boston and streetfootballworld.

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