How this popular sport hopes to help integration in Sweden

Lee Roden
Lee Roden - [email protected]
How this popular sport hopes to help integration in Sweden
The Swedish Handball Federation's new rulebooks. Photo: Love Lanner/Swedish Handball

A sporting association in Sweden has launched a new initiative which it hopes will promote integration in the country through the simple act of translating rules into a new language.


Handball is an indoor sport featuring two teams of seven players which is popular in many European countries including Spain, France and the Scandinavian nations. The Swedish Handball Federation has now translated the rules of the game as well as an introductory guide to the sport into Arabic. 

The move comes ahead of the Women’s European Handball Championship, due to be held in Sweden in December, and aims to get Sweden’s Arabic-speaking population more involved in the game.

After doing research into which groups are represented in its member clubs, the Swedish Handball Federation found that most of the around 100,000 players of the sport in the country tend to come from families with Swedish origins and families with Balkan roots.

The goal with the translated rules is to appeal to a broader base of Swedes therefore, and the move is also designed to try to engage Sweden’s refugee population. Sweden received over 163,000 asylum applications in 2015, and with many people in that group having some competence in Arabic, the handball authority realized translating the rules could be of great use.

“We believe sport can do a lot to help the process of integration. Apart from the fact that you learn the language while playing, you also make new friends, create connections, and get to do something that takes your mind off other stuff. Also, we know that exercising helps you concentrate and do better in school, which is crucial if you want to learn Swedish,” Matilda Boson, marketing manager for the 2016 Women's European Handball Championships, told The Local.

READ ALSO: How cricket is helping refugees integrate in Sweden

For the sport itself meanwhile, opening up a broader pool of players should also mean more talent to take advantage of.

“Like most sports, Swedish handball is in need of more active players. You could say we’re looking for our Zlatan. Compared to football, handball has some disadvantages because fewer people know about the sport, but it’s perfect for Swedish conditions with snow and rain for several months in a row,” Boson explained.

The plan is to translate the rules into more languages in the future, including Dari, Somali and Tigrinya. By releasing rules in Arabic the Swedish Handball Federation is already ahead of the International Handball Federation, which currently only publishes its rules in English, German and French.

The Arabic rules can be read and downloaded here for free.


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