Paper: Belonging and the beautiful game: football as everyday humanitarianism

Paper details

Paper authors Dr Jessica R Hawkins
In panel on Everyday humanitarianism
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


“When football is written and talked about, questions related to aesthetic properties, aesthetic experience and aesthetic judgement are typically evoked”; it is after all, the beautiful game, a neighbour to the arts (Borge et al. 2015: 94). This paper considers how the sport tells the story of displacement and belonging in refugee settlements in Uganda. Football, at its core is a theatre of conflict, where a team must work together to overcome an opposition. When placed in situations of displacement, it is curious that this form of conflict can become an everyday space where human vulnerabilities lead to positive outcomes. Through the lens of collective power, the paper discusses the role football has in creating a sense of belonging for refugees; whether through shared friendships, joy, mental wellbeing or escapism. Within the constraints of poor equipment, unsuitable terrain and lack of funding, the beauty of football prevails even if the only ball is one made of string.
This paper traces football’s historical and modern-day role as the most popular form of cultural activity in situations of displacement and unpacks the part it plays in forging a sense of belonging and a form of humanitarian response for refugees. Two case study teams in modern Uganda form the backdrop for this examination.