Immigrant communities, wherever they go, establish their own institutions in the new societies, whether they are cultural, sports or even economic institutions, to help their members maintain their connection with their original societies and, on the other hand, give them the opportunity to express their trends and develop their talents. This serves their interest and the interest of their original communities and also serves their new communities and helps them integrate into these communities quickly and easily.
The Arab communities here in Latin America lack effective and influential institutions that take care of their interests and provide for their needs. All we see are institutions that do not provide the minimum needs of the Arab communities, despite the impressive success achieved by many Arabs in these countries as individuals and with personal effort. We sometimes hear about this doctor of Arab origin, as well as that politician and athlete. For example, the former Brazilian player-turned-coach, Mario Zagallo, who won the World Cup is of Lebanese origin, and many of the politicians who came to power in Latin American countries are of Arab origin. What I want to say here is that we lack strong institutions that look after our interests and provide us with the appropriate environment to communicate with the countries of origin from which we came from.
In Canada, a group of Arab sports activists established the Arab Canadian Sports Association to serve the Arab community, in the first place, and Canadians in the second place, and to give all the talented the opportunity to express their abilities and talents and develop them to the highest levels. That is what we need as an Arab community in Latin American countries. We need to establish an Arab-Latin Sports Association to serve the Arab community and give them the full opportunity to express their talents and orientations because Latin American countries are famous for sports and for being a factory for football stars.
Middle East Monitor interviewed the chairman of the Arab Canadian Sports Association, Samer Kamal, to tell us more about their association.
Tell us about the Sports Association and the purpose of its establishment
The Arab Canadian Sports Association is an international non-profit organisation that aims to support athletes living in Canada and abroad.
The Arab Canadian Sports Association is a pioneer for social change, with founders renowned for their track record in creating innovative programs that are both sustainable and replicable.
Are you targeting only young people or all segments of society? What kind of activities do you offer?
Our programs serve Arab athletes who came to Canada as refugees, in an effort to develop their life skills and help integrate them into Canadian communities.
The Arab Canadian Sports Association's programs and activities are intended to create opportunities, support, promote and ensure Arab and Canadian athletes' representation in international sports events.
Are your activities specific to the Arab people in Canada or to the entire Canadian community?
We support Arab Athletes around the world. But our events and activities are directed to the Canadian communities in general.
Are there cooperative relations with Arab Associations in other countries, especially in the Arab countries?
Yes, there are. From the contacts and great relationships that I have personally, and with the help of the advisory executive board, we were able to connect with many sports organisations around the world.
How many members does the Association have? What is the main source of its funding?
We have around 40 executive members, 11 board members and around 60 regular members.
The main source of funding is donations, membership fees and events revenues.
What are the long-term goals of your association?
To increase our existence and support for more athletes who are in need. Also, to be the main world organisation in helping athletes to develop.
If one of your goals is to prepare a new generation to be the future champions, do you plan for them to represent Canada in international competitions or to represent their countries of origin?
We are not aiming for leading any athletes' participation in international organised events. We leave this to their federations and clubs. But we are focussing to be the supporting arm for both athletes and sports organisations. Some athletes need guidance before they get to participate in big sports events. Arab Canadian Sports Association is doing its best to help the athletes reach their goals.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.