The Universal Language Of Soccer

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There are few words more topical and sure to spark conversation than “immigration.” You don’t even have to be American—where the word has begun to trigger thoughts of the president’s warpath to build a wall. Immigration is a topic of global importance. Some countries welcome new people and cultures with open arms; others shun them with balled fists. The nations who open their borders to people fleeing conflict or persecution in their home countries always have a difficult task ahead: How to integrate people from such different backgrounds into their new surroundings and ways of life.

Sweden is one country that has always been immigration-friendly. Rarely hesitating to open their borders to refugees and asylum seekers, their reputation for being a wonderful place is not based on myth. The influx of immigrants from largely Middle-Eastern and North African countries has given Sweden a brand new feel. It’s only natural that the cultural barriers exist but there has always been one thing that will forever transcend any race or religion: soccer. A huge swell of Kurdish people who moved to the frigid cold of a Swedish winter and settled in the central city of Borlänge, knew this for a fact.

It started as a project to integrate local children into their new communities. The local soccer team, IK Brage, lent them access to facilities and equipment and the immigrant children could play for a team that flew their flag, literally: Dalkurd FF. The red, white and green emblem of the club with the yellow star set in the middle, an ode to the Kurdish flag, gained support from immigrants all over Sweden and eventually, beyond. One thing that hadn’t changed from Sweden to Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Syria, Ethiopia, Somalia or any of the countries where they came from was soccer. Even of they had yet to learn the Swedish language, they could share the game with their new compatriots when they played for Dalkurd.

In the Swedish soccer league system, when a team is founded, they must begin play in Division 6, which is the seventh level of the league system. Dalkurd FF played their first competitive season in 2005, and won the league. So in 2006 they were promoted to Division 5, and they won that league also. The same story would continue every year for five years: they would get promoted to the next level of the league system and win. In 2010 they arrived in the third division and they would go on to spend six seasons there before winning promotion yet again to Superettan, the second tier, and first level that is considered a professional league. As soon as they did this, they bypassed IK Brage, the team who had lent them a hand and gotten them their start in the Swedish soccer world.   

In typical Dalkurd FF fashion, they would only spend two seasons in Superettan before winning promotion once again and getting promoted to the Allsvenskan, the highest level in Sweden. More than just the people of Borlänge took notice. Dalkurd had become the team of the Kurdish people, domestic and abroad. Their unbelievable rise through the leagues was something the supporters took extreme pride in. Native Swedes seemed to be proud of what the club had accomplished. Dalkurd found life at the top to be a little overwhelming in their first season in the top flight and they were relegated back to Superettan. They have made themselves known to the world and there’s no doubt that they will find their way back to the top. Only soccer can bring the masses together in such a pure way.

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About Author

Eddy Prugh is currently a professional soccer player from Montana. He plays for Skellefteå FF of Sweden’s Division 1 Norra and has spent time at The Colorado Springs Switchbacks of the United Soccer League and Bodens BK, another Swedish team. He spent one year playing at Oregon State University and has a love for the rain and laid-back lifestyle of the Northwest.

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