Since the rise of a right-wing populist movement in 2002, the issue of the 'unsuccessful' integration of ethnic minorities is at the centre of Dutch public debate. The quest for promising social spheres to bridge gaps between the autochthonous Dutch population and minority groups has brought recreational sport to the political agenda. Sport participation is widely advocated as an effective and unproblematic way for interethnic contact and socialization. In this article we report on two studies conducted in the city of Rotterdam to test these assumptions. One study, focusing on motivations to participate in sport, showed that among participants meeting different people is less valued than expected, especially among marginalized migrant-groups who primarily want to confirm their ethnic identity through homogeneous sport activities. Further research on sport encounters between different ethnic groups made it clear that, particularly in soccer, these encounters frequently result in aggression and can seldom be labelled as trouble-free contact. This can be explained as much by the aggressive elements of the game itself as by the fact that inter-ethnic tensions from other social spheres are imported and even magnified in these sports activities. In sum, although recreational sport (such as soccer) might seem ideal for meaningful cultural crossovers, in practice ethnic differences are reinforced in this sphere instead of bridged. © Copyright ISSA and SAGE Publications.