16/05/2016

A different career for Brussels' Troubled Youth

Brussels' district of Molenbeek has become known as a hub for islamists. But like other troubled parts of the city, it is also home to talented soccer players who the club in neighboring Anderlecht seeks to develop.


Read a story from the DeutsceWelle website about this Belgium club’s efforts in recruiting young people from less advantageous backgrounds at home, rather than importing talents from around the world.

Eight years ago the club started its project - Purple Talents - which entails recruiting young boys from all over Belgium. In many cases, it also means convincing the parents to let their sons be put in one of Anderlecht's host families, so that they can live close to the club. They then embark on a tightly-packed schedule of lessons at school and training sessions on the pitch, from seven in the morning to eight o'clock at night.
While sometimes, the club's scouts find young talent in the most remote corners of Belgium, for the most part, they don't have to look very far. In fact, having scouts check out the empty lots and grassy fields of Anderlecht itself and it's neighboring districts may be just as fruitful.
"Molenbeek is filled with talent," says David Steegen, spokesman for the Anderlecht club, and starts giving examples. "MichyBatshuayi, who played here and now plays for Olympique Marseille, is from Molenbeek, as is his brother, Aaron LeyaIseka, who is one of our big talents and a sub in our first team."

The article also provides valuable information and analysis of the reasons that make the European youth adopting radical Islam.

Particularly in recent weeks and months, Molenbeek has become known around the world as a stronghold of jihadism. The list of terrorists and suspected terrorists with connections to Molenbeek is long, and includes AbdelhamidAbaaoud, the mastermind behind the November attacks in Paris. BrahimAbdeslam, one of the suicide attackers that killed 130 in the event, lived in Molenbeek. His brother Salah, a suspect in the same attacks, was captured in Molenbeek a few days before the attacks on Brussels - and had been able to hide there for months.
In reality, says Johan Leman, an anthropologist and community worker in the district, there are many different parts to Molenbeek, including one that is middle-class. "But when media refer to this part of Brussels, they mean 'lower Molenbeek,' a part of the neighborhood characterized by a large migrant population and very high population density. And because anybody who has any success in life leaves this part of Molenbeek, it becomes the neighborhood of those without any perspectives."
With youth unemployment in Molenbeek at 40 percent, young people there are an easy target for extremists.
In part, at least, Belgian schools are also to blame, says teacher Jean Francois Lenvain. "I think that unfortunately, they have not provided enough help to many young people with a migrant background in forging their identities," he says. "Most are well-integrated, of course, but a minority gets sort of lost, and drops out of school and has ever fewer chances of succeeding in life. And then, it's easy for people to convince them to embark on a path to radicalization and to Syria."

For the full story, please go here.

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