Abstract: Australian policy makers and funding organisations have relied heavily on sport as a vehicle for achieving the goals of social cohesion and social inclusion. The generally accepted premise that sport includes individuals in larger social contexts, and in doing so creates positive social outcomes, remains largely untested and uncontested. This article considers the ways in which playing in an asylum seeker football team, located in Melbourne, Australia, facilitates both inclusive and exclusive experiences for its participants. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, life histories, and policy analysis, this article identifies the often-ignored importance of a sporting habitus and physical capital in individuals’ experiences of playing. The success or failure of the asylum seeker team to foster social inclusion is somewhat tenuous as the logic of competition can create conditions counter to those that would be recognised as inclusive. Further, such programmes are faced with sustainability problems, as they are heavily reliant on individuals within the organisation and community to “make things happen”. However, we suggest that for many men, the asylum seeker team provides an important site for the development and appreciation of ‘poly-cultural’ capital that contributes to forms of resilience and the achievement of other indicators of social inclusion.
Keywords: asylum seeker; exclusion; football; inclusion; poly-cultural capital; refugee; sport