BREMEN, February 16, 2012 - The Laureus “Kicking Girls” project is enjoying huge success – so much so that there are now plans for it to be extended by 2013 beyond Bremen, where it all started, to the rest of Germany. To cap it all, the Kicking Girls from the Grundschule am Pastorenweg primary school in Bremen have won the Integration Prize, which is awarded annually by the German Football Association (DFB) and Mercedes-Benz.
The award was presented on Friday by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and DFB President Dr. Theo Zwanziger.
The remaining prizes also went to Kicking Girls clubs - the Anne-Frank-Schule in Lüneburg-Kaltenmoor and the IGS Flötenteich/GS Nadorst school in Oldenburg. The winning team from Bremen are soon to become the proud owners of a brand-new Mercedes-Benz Vito, whilst the runners-up carried off 10,000 euros and the third-place winners 5,000 euros in prize money.
For Ulf Gebken, who leads the Kicking Girls project and is Head of “Integration through Sport and Education” at the University of Oldenburg, this marks a huge achievement: “I think it’s sensational news that the Kicking Girls have won this award. Football is the perfect way to bring German kids together with those from migrant families and other ethnic backgrounds. It is all about welcoming people in, learning to play together and to follow the rules. Some of our girls make the decision to take off their veil when they play football and I admire the fact that they make this decision and stick with it.”
The aim of the Integration Prize is to support projects and activities which promote, in an exemplary manner, the integration of migrant children and young people, especially girls, through the medium of football. The prize’s patron is manager of Germany’s national team, Oliver Bierhoff. The jury, consisting of DFB President Dr. Theo Zwanziger and the German government’s Integration Commissioner, Prof. Dr. Maria Böhmer, met on 6 December 2011 in Frankfurt to draw up the list of nominees for the 2011 award.
“Every year the Integration Prize sends out a clear message that our society is changing, not just getting older but also becoming more diverse”, says Dr. Zwanziger. “Because it’s a hands-on activity and a lot of fun too, integration happens naturally in football - but that’s not to say that it doesn’t need to be fostered. For five years now, our partner Mercedes-Benz and the DFB have used the award of this prize to recognise the exemplary work of clubs, schools and projects which use football as a means of bringing people from different cultures together and nurturing mutual respect.”
Oliver Bierhoff also acknowledges the social benefits which football brings: "Football is perfect for integrating people - it doesn’t matter where you come from, what language you speak or religion you follow – when you are on the pitch everyone is pulling together and just wanting to win. Football has a unique way of integrating people and helps migrant children and young people, in particular, to feel rooted in the community. I played football abroad for over ten years, so I know how important it is to feel settled and fully part of the community you live in. That’s why I am really pleased to be part of this joint initiative of DFB und Mercedes-Benz to award the Integration Prize to worthwhile projects”.
The Grundschule am Pastorenweg in Bremen, which is in an area of great social deprivation, encourages and actively promotes positive intercultural attitudes through its “Active School” motto.
The school has had its own football team for over 20 years. At breaktime the kids go out and play football and, when they are not busy on the pitch, there are “team talks” in which the pupils discuss ideas around the notion of ‘fair play’. In the academic year 2010/2011, four in-school tournaments were organised, involving a total of 160 children. The school’s girls’ team took part in a number of football tournaments and this raised their interest in club football. The aim of all this is not only to increase the youngsters’ self-confidence but also to promote positive intercultural attitudes and encourage fairness and mutual respect. Football is also known to have a positive effect on school pupils’ attitude towards their work and that applies to girls as well as boys.