Spaces of football and belonging for people seeking asylum: Resisting policy-imposed liminality in Italy

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As radical right parties capitalise on the salience of immigration among
the Italian public, this paper explores solidarity grassroots football as a
unique lens to investigate how people seeking asylum resist the effects
of policies and discourses of exclusion, and develop senses of belonging
in the micro-scale of their day-to-day lives. Sport and migration studies
researchers have primarily considered policy-based questions (e.g., how
can sport facilitate integration?). In shifting the focus from integration to
belonging, this ethnographic study engages with the embodied and
affective experiences of individuals seeking asylum. Employing the
analytical framework for the study of belonging advanced by Yuval-Davis
and integrated by Antonsich, four themes are discussed: the agency of
people seeking asylum in appropriating football to nurture a positive
sense of self; the emergence of the material environment of sporting
activities as a space of belonging; the negotiation of belonging within
and beyond the team; and the local neighbourhood as possible trait
d’union between sport-specific attachments and belonging to the wider
community. The article contends that involvement in solidarity
grassroots football can provide people seeking asylum with opportunities
for belonging that go beyond the momentary, and play a vital role in
resisting the liminality imposed by autochthonic politics of belonging.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-100
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Issue number1
Early online date12 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished online - 12 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • Spaces of belonging
  • Football (soccer)
  • Asylum seekers
  • Migration
  • Liminality
  • asylum seekers
  • liminality
  • space of belonging
  • migration
  • football (soccer)


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