Immigration enriches Swiss sport, says minister

Breel Embolo recently pledged his international allegiance to Switzerland over his birthplace Cameroon. The 17-year-old striker moved to Switzerland when he was six and has played for the Under-21s but was granted citizenship only at the beginning of December Keystone

Sport is not only a means of integrating foreigners into Swiss society – the country’s teams also benefit from immigration, according to Sports Minister Ueli Maurer. 

This content was published on December 24, 2014 - 11:09

In an interview with newspaper Blick on Wednesday, the politician from the rightwing Swiss People’s Party – which this year launched two initiatives to curb the number of immigrants to Switzerland – admitted that immigration “clearly has a stimulating effect” on sport. 

“The national football team and the European Athletics Championships show what integrated immigrants can achieve,” he said. 

Switzerland was the most multicultural of all the 32 teams taking part in the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil – 15 Swiss players had 21 different family connections to other countries. Many of the Swiss squad are second-generation immigrants, so-called Secondos, who have at least one foreign parent. 

While some Swiss say they struggle to identify with such a multicultural squad, Maurer said one had to accept that Swiss athletes with foreign roots “somehow hold on” to the birthplace of their parents. 

“That is not tragic,” he said, admitting that he holds the village in the Bernese Oberland where his family comes from close to his heart although he has little connection to the region otherwise. 

“In the army around a third of recruits are Secondos. They are simply Swiss who have certain feelings about their country of origin.” 

Maurer, who is also the Swiss defence minister, said it was more “an achievement of Switzerland than of sport that these cultures can be united”. 

He pointed out that while the situation was clear on the football pitch, it was very different on the piste. “There is no immigration from winter sport nations.” 

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