Social Capital and Soccer: Adult Soccer Leagues as New Arenas for Immigrant Incorporation

Authors: Edward Painter*,
Topics: Immigration/Transnationalism, Recreational and Sport Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Social Capital, Migration, Soccer, Sports, Urban Geography, Cultural Geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Poydras, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines adult soccer leagues in the Washington D.C. area and determines the level of social capital that exists in the social networks that form around regular soccer games. Given soccer’s global appeal, the communities that form around soccer are distinctly international, and include native-born residents of the city, as well as newer, foreign-born community members. Crucially, the communities that form can be spatially dispersed throughout a diverse metropolitan area, and can rely on online platforms to organize regular meeting times and places. The soccer fields themselves are important meeting places for these dispersed communities. Thus, local soccer fields, and the networks that form within them, can be a powerful resource for migrant incorporation in diverse metropolitan cities, like Washington D.C. In this case study, 623 soccer players in five different leagues, completed on-line surveys. League types ranged from social sports leagues, to more competitive leagues, in addition to a survey of the pickup soccer community. Three focus groups were also conducted with players who played in the social sports league and players from the pickup soccer community. Results suggest that not only are the soccer leagues ethnically diverse, but that the communities have a high level of localized trust and reciprocity. Indeed, survey results showed that participants gained new social connections, and additionally, that member’s professional lives were positively influenced by their participation.

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