Does sport bring people in the Netherlands together?

Sport is an activity that can bind communities closer together, providing a common sense of identity and purpose - or, at the very least, a shared interest.

While people in the Netherlands (especially in Amsterdam) are playing more sport, the most popular activities are solo. So is the effect of sport on social cohesion overestimated?

The new professor of Sports Sociology Ramón Spaaij at the University of Amsterdam believes that people need to take a realistic view of the effect sport may have as "the glue that holds a community together."

"Sport brings together," he says, "but it also divides."

Social benefits

Sport can have a positive influence on social cohesion: it brings together people from diverse backgrounds and teaches people how to deal with differences, competition and pressure to perform.

"Sport is often used to tackle delinquent behaviour among young people, encourage integration and improve the quality of life in city neighbourhoods," says Spaaij. "Sport is even playing an ever-more prominent role in international development co-operation and conflict management."

Not a whole solution

The benefits to the community of playing or enjoying sport should not be overestimated, however. Competition can also bring out the worst in people, as has been seen in recent violent incidents in amateur football in the Netherlands.

"It is not an automatic process that people from different backgrounds play sports together. Some people, such as non-Western migrants or people with a disability, come up against high social and cultural barriers to participation in sport."

Sport, then, can provide a bond between people, helping to turn people who live in the same area into a genuine community, but it can also provide a source of conflict and differentiation.

Spaaij will be researching the effect of sport in society during his time at the university.

Source: University of Amsterdam

Alexandra Gowling


Alexandra Gowling

Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in Asia before coming to the Netherlands a year ago. She enjoys writing, reading...

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