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Sport and Expatriation: support and practice abroad

02 March, 2011 18:06  Erin Erin

Expat Match - Scotland v. England

Sporting events have the ability to tear communities apart or unite a nation. The emotion packed into a single game can match a soap opera as people cheer, cry, scream, pray, curse, sweat, and moan. For many expats, going to a sporting event is an opportunity to feel included. Upon arrival you can immediately put on a jersey, go to a game, and melt into a crowd of your countrymen.

For some people, fan-dom doesn't quite go far enough. Some expats want to play. Two expat teams are gearing to meet up in March. Scotland v. England is not an unusual pairing, but the location of the game is- Doha, Qatar. The teams first met in the 1950s, and have been competing semi-annually since 1989. The event has become increasingly popular as the expat community continues to grow. It offers amateur players a chance of glory they might never have back home and feeds a friendly rivalry.

Since the end of 2006, an International Expatriate Football League has fostered the expat play. The QIFL (Qatar International Football League) has now expanded to twelve teams with mulitple games and a longer season. It is with the help of the Qatar Olympic Committee that the event is taking place. Chairman of the organizing committee, Graeme Pattison, expressed his gratitude to the country for fostering the expat league. "Without their enthusiasm this event would not be able to take place," Pattison said, "in giving the game true 'international' honor the game is officiated by FIFA officials from Qatar."

Scotland has won the past two meet-ups on penalties. The England expat team is looking to change that this year. England's manager, Mark Jarman, said "This is a do or die match! As they say ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country". He also acknowledges the increased importance this amateur games holds, "We as the squad fully understand that we are not just playing any old game. This is the game on the international circuit that we as England simply must win...bragging rights of a nation for the year will rest on this game and its outcome". Not to mention the Scotland v England Challenge Trophy! Scotland's manager, Stuart Potter, responded with "Like any cup final the form book goes out of the window, it all depends on who wants to win more on the day".

This year's match will take place at the Al Ahli football stadium at 14:00 on March 4th, 2011. Entry is free with all fans welcome. For more on the match, go to Scotland v. England Qatar.

While the winner is yet to be decided, the most interesting point of the match is the ability of expats to adapt to any situation. One of the most difficult things about leaving home is abandoning the traditions and customs of your home country. Bringing pictures, familiar furniture, family, and pets helps assuage some of this loss expats experience. But the ability to bring something intangible, such as football, and re-invent it in an expat setting is the ideal combination of home and abroad. Common interests help unite an expat community and form a support group for the inevitable trials of living abroad.

How to Find Your Own Game

Football fans portrait © Andres Rodriguez - Fotolia

People say sports can be seen as an international language. Start kicking around a soccer ball in Brazil and some kids may join you. Dunk some hoops in a park in Los Angeles and locals will join in. Try out ice skating in Taipei and make friends at the rink. Athletics can be a great uniter.

Whether your interest is in finding a few friends to kick around a ball, an amateur sports league, or just a community gym- there are some basic steps to finding your sports community.

Online forums, like EasyExpat's, are a great place to find out what options are available in your city of residence and hopefully find some teammates. Many places with a large expat organization organize teams for the community, such as the football match in Qatar.

City guides also offer helpful sections on sports and activities. Easy expat offers guides on over 50 cities in multiple languages. For example, Chicago's, Hong Kong's, and Johannesburg's sports and activities pages.

Gyms are often the meeting ground for the athletically inclined. Check member boards for flyers, chat with other members, and inquire with staff for opportunities.

Professional Teams are a great place to find out about amateur league play. Most teams know where amateur players can find games and may even be affiliated with a lower league. Inquire at team shops, ticket counters or online.

Networking can be useful if you play with a team at home. Ask your current contacts if they know of anyone in your home abroad or have any contacts with teams in the area.

Social networks are for more then just chatting. There are multitudes of groups devoted to expats, sports and any combination of the two. Two of the most popular, Twitter and Facebook, have easy-to-use search functions to find exactly what you are looking for.

Start your own! It really isn't as hard as it sounds. Your co-workers, neighbors, and friends are all potential teammates. Check for interest and facilities and get playing.

Expat Sports Organization

Listed below are a few sample organizations. These serve as an example to the variety of opportunities that exist. Go. Play. Have fun!







Update: England prevented the hat trick and won the game by a solid 4-1.


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