Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Dream of Kizil - Dalkurd's Run for Glory

By Yosport

You can never imagine how fast your dream can turn real.
Ramazan Kizil, a Kurd from Borlänge, Sweden, is probably sitting at his office and cannot believe how his aspiring project for immigrants like him is now arriving its money time.
Few years ago, Kizil, alongside with other people from the Kurd community in Borlänge, decided to establish a new football club. They’ve wanted to create a professional team that will play at the higher levels of the Swedish football.
Now, ten years later, this little project, Dalkurd FF, is getting closer to secure a spot in the Allsvenskan – Swedish top flight football league.

"I have a dream!". Ramazan Kizil, founding father of Dalkurd (Pontus Orre©)

Kurds are immigrating to Sweden since the late 60's. While some looked for a better quality of life, the majority escaped the horrors of the Middle East conflicts. And the Kurds have suffered. Military coups in Turkey, Iraqi government’s abuse and the neglecting Syrian Baath-regime, all were among the main causes for a large community of 84,000 Kurdish descent people living in Sweden, what made them almost 1% out of the country’s total population.
Like in many other immigration cases, the integration of Kurds in Sweden did not went smooth from the beginning. The culture differences, the identity issues and the socio-economic situation of many of the Kurdish families influenced its acceptance by and to Swedish society. Like in many other immigrants’ stories, especially in Sweden, football was a great path for integration.

In 2004, Ramzan Kizil gathered his friend and established Dalkurd FF. At the beginning the idea was to create a safe place for Borlänge youngsters, where they could be part of a positive setting.  A sport club looked as the best option helping the kids integrating into Swedish society. Even though that Kizil had dreams of going professional one day, but it looked surreal at first - his club had an average age of 17 years old – it was practically a youth team.

Kizil did not give up. At their debut season, Dalkurd won its first ever promotion. It was the first in a series of five consecutive promotions. In 2010 Dalkurd played 3rd division football for the first time. Then, it seemed that going further than that level will be a tough mission. For few years they’ve lost promotion playoffs and missed the top spots only by few points, accompanied by narrow cruel misses in money time matches. And then, in 2015 they finally made it.
At the end of the season, Dalkurd was standing proud in 1st place at the Swedish Division 1 (third tier), with a single defeat out of 26 games, leading the table by 13 points, going all the way to the Superettan. Among the top scorers of the league, three were Dalkurd players. Ramazan Kizil saw his dream arrive its glory time – Dalkurd was alive, kicking and competitive.

Much more than a football club. Dalkurd's Peshraw Azizi with the flag (twitter©)
For Kurds across the world Dalkurd is much more than just a football club.
In manners of fans, 1.3 million people like the club's fan page on Facebook, more than most of Allsvenskan clubs, altogether.
But the connection of Dalkurd to the worldwide Kurdish spectrum is not based only on the internet. In November 2011, the club organized a charity match with TV stars and Allsvenskan players. They donated the money to the city of Van, city in Eastern Turkey with Kurd majority that suffered a 7.2 magnitude earthquake.

The Kurdish identity didn't made Dalkurd a homogeneous team. Alongside with Kurd players like Peshraw Azizi and Rawez Lawan who were born in Sweden, and Mirkan Aydin who born in Germany, you can find immigrants descendants from various origins. Swedish born Dusan Djuric’s parents are from Serbia, and he had represented the Swedish national team. On the other hand, Kujtim Bala born in Sweden but decided to represent Kosovo national team.
One of the interesting figures in Dalkurd is Ahmed Awad. Awad, a Swedish-born Palestinian began his career in the bigger club of the city, IK Brage, but in the age of 19 he decided to move to Dalkurd. He plays for the team since 2011, with exception of only one season. Awad’ success in Dalkurd earned him a call-up for the Palestinian national team. In March, during the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Timor-Leste, he made his debut for Palestine and scored his first ever international goal.

A Swedish-Palestinian who stars for A Swedish-Kurdish club. Dalkurd' sensation Ahmed Awad (Jontan Svedgard©)
Ten games are left for the Superettan season and for Dalkurd to complete Kizil’s mission.
They are 2 points away from a promotion playoff spot and 6 points from an automatic promotion to the Allsvesnkan. On their 11th season of existence, they can feel equal to teams like Halmstads BK (four-time Swedish champions) and IK Sirius (one of the most veteran clubs in Sweden).
Their next match will be against Syrianska FC. Like Dalkurd, Syrianska also represents immigrants. Alongside with Assyriska, they represent the Assyrian community. In the past, both teams were promoted to the Allsvenskan. Nowadays, both are fighting against relegation in second division, while Dalkurd is in the top of the league.

Ramazan Kizil is at his moment of truth. His Assyrian colleagues have already reached the top flight before, an achievement that he dreamed about for years now. A win against Syrianska will be a big step for Kizil's team, on their way to fulfill his dream.
A promotion will be a huge victory for the team, for Kizil and for the Kurdish community in Sweden. but trust Kizil – he will target his next goal fast, and will make Dalkurd and the Kurds even greater.

A Kurdish dream. Dalkurd (Pontus Orre©)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Germano-Brazilian Connection

By Tom Geffen

Few days from now, Brazil will face Germany at the final stage of the Olympic football games, which would be held at the mythological Maracanã stadium in Rio. Both teams have started the Olympic Games with two draws and continued with three consecutive wins. Brazil have scored 12 goals and did not concieve, while the Germans have scored 21 (!) goals and conceded 5.

Needs to achieve revenge on Germany and to gain Brazilian football dignity back. Neymar (Official site)
So far, Brazil has enjoyed a massive support from their home crowd. More than 50,000 supporters came to see their favorites hammering Honduras 6-0 in the semi-final. Due to the national team poor results at the last Copa America and World Cup, including the unforgettable 7-1 defeat against Germany, there is a lot of pressure on the Olympic squad to win the gold medal, to achieve some kind of revenge and to gain the Brazilian football dignity back.
However, one state in Brazil just might be more divided than others prior this final match – the state of Santa Catarina.
Santa Catarina state in the south of Brazil (Wikimedia©)
Since the beginning of the 19th century, waves of European immigrants are coming to Brazil, and in the case of Santa Catarina it reflects as the vast majority of the population is descendants of European settlers. Moreover, people of German and Austrian descent make up the largest ethnic group among the population of Santa Catarina, at around 45% - with a considerable portion still speaking the German language. In the city of Blumenau the German influence is so strong that they even celebrate the Oktoberfest of Blumenau, a traditional beer festival originated from Germany. In all of Brazil there are more than 5 million people of German descent, and they are the second biggest community outside of Germany (the biggest is in the U.S).
Santa Catarina is also the state with the best social indicators in Latin America, and the German immigration just might have something to do with it. Besides being the Brazilian state with the highest levels of income, education and public health, and one of the lowest rates of illiteracy. Santa Catarina boasts Brazil's highest average life expectancy and lowest homicide rate in addition to lower levels of corruption. The cities of the state are also considered some the most livable in the country, enjoying a reputation of being "clean, safe and organized".

Oktoberfest of Blumenau. A german tradition in Santa Catarina (Marcelo Martins©)
The German lifestyle and traditions of Santa Catarina is so far not helping very much to the local football clubs. Chapecoense AF is the highest ranked club today from Santa Catarina, when they are located in the 10th position, out of 20 teams, in the Brazilian Serie A. Chapecoense AF's total market value is about 22 million GBP, while the most valuable team in the league, Palmeiras, worth almost 70 Million GPB. Figueirense FC, from the state capital Florianopolis, are currently 17th in the same league. At Serie B, Avai FC, valued only at 10 million GBP, are also having a rough time and they are ranked 15th out of 20. Few spots under Avai stands Joinville EC, who comes from the state's largest city in the state, Joinville, are in 19th position.

Chapocoense are currently fighting against relegation in Brazilian top flight (ESPN©)

The German connection to Brazil continues with the donation made by world cup winner Mesut Ozil, who decided to donate is winning bonus and helped funding operations for 11 sick children in Brazil.

This special relationship between the Germans and the Brazilians will stand to the test once again very soon on the football pitch of the Maracanã stadium. No matter how it might end, it is safe to presume that at least half of the people of Santa Catarina will be happy at the end.