“They play together, they laugh together’: Sport, play and fun in refugee sport projects

Berber Koopmans, Mark Doidge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Whilst the role of sport for those working with refugees has become a
recent area of academic analysis, these predominantly focus on the
Global North (Spaaij et al. 2019). Drawing on participant observation
and interviews with volunteers in Rwamwanja, this article critiques the
role of Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) projects that invariably
use sport as a hook to engage participants. Focussing on games that
promote play and encouraging fun are potentially beneficial for young
inhabitants of refugee settlements. Unlike sport projects, which often
have other aims or outcomes (such as education or health), play in and
of itself is important. Play can open an imaginary world which can contribute
to having fun and relaxation by helping young people in refugee
settlements to stop worrying about the past or future and live wholly
in the present. This reframes the focus of projects. Rather than focusing
on specific outcomes, such as education or health, promoting fun
through play can provide the foundations for these and other outcomes
to develop.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-550
Number of pages14
JournalSport in Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2021


  • Refugees
  • fun
  • global south
  • play
  • sport for development and peace


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