Intercultural dialogue through the common language of football

The ‘New Ways to Europe’ project supported a Czech-German football school (DTFS) in its efforts to bring soccer parents and budding young hopefuls together in a spirit of co-operation and common understanding.

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Using football card games to stimulate intercultural understanding © Gerald Prell Using football card games to stimulate intercultural understanding © Gerald Prell

" An example in the field of youth cooperation is the German-Czech football school, which combines the promotion of sports activities with language and cultural training. Since 2007, approximately 6 000 young people from both nations have taken part in training, events and tournaments. "

Johannes Hartl, regional government of Bavaria

In an effort to reduce the linguistic and cultural ‘differences’ between Germany and Czechs in the Bavarian-Czech border region, a project aimed at youth has been established. Football was shown to be an excellent way of breaking down cultural barriers and allowing the children to build relationships through physical activity. Those enrolling at the camp are encouraged to mix socially with their peers from across the border. The football camps foster language learning and the appreciation of cultural values.

Achieving many goals

The project attracted much media interest: in the first year of the project, the German national newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on the mini European Championship that was organised by the camp and sponsored by the EU. Moreover, representatives from the project were invited by the German Federal President, Horst Köhler, to a reception in Berlin in 2009 and by Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, to a presentation in Prague.

The project reached the whole Bavarian-Czech border, holding camps in the two countries alternatively. These were organised in cooperation with both small and large football clubs. “Our aim was to include as many kids as possible and to give children from remote regions or smaller clubs a chance to meet and play with clubs with a bigger name,” says Gerald Prell of Deutsch-Tschechische Fussballschule (DTFS). “The best boys were selected to play in a mixed cross-border team, ‘Team Europe’, and could play in various football tournaments with clubs from the Bundesliga, the Czech Premier League and other top European leagues.”

Connecting with other European regions

The club also invited top international academies to exchange know-how and coaches to join their actions. Moreover, the project initiated an annual tournament, the aforementioned mini-Euro, for 11 year-olds from the region. The tournament has featured the youth teams of Manchester United, Bayern München, FC Porto, Ajax, CSKA Moskva, Legia Warszawa, Sparta Praha, Paris Saint-Germain and Karpaty Lviv. “Football was the bridge for mutual understanding and a strong sign against racism,” emphasises Mr Prell.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “New ways to Europe” was EUR 922 353 of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributed EUR 682 821 from the Cross Border Cooperation “Germany – Czech” for the 2007 to 2013 period.

Draft date