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African refugees compete in football championship


Sunday, December 23, 2012




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Hundreds of football players, representing the cream of Australian-African talent, have gathered in Melbourne for the Australian Somali championships.

Hundreds of football players, representing the cream of Australian-African talent, have gathered in Melbourne for the Australian Somali championships.

The nine day tournament features 16 teams from around the country - as well as an international side from New Zealand.

From overseas refugee camps to high-rise housing commission living and then on to footballing fields of dreams.

Youths from war-torn Horn of Africa countries are putting aside the trauma of the past to show off their prodigious skills on the opening day of the third Australian Somali National Championships.

'It's a multi-cultural tournament. We have also got a few Aussies too," says Somalian goalkeeper Abdi Farah.

"It's a good feeling and obviously the main purpose is to get to know each other , you know soccer is the world game as well."

Somalia, Kenya, Eritrea, South Sudan and Ethiopia are all represented on the pitch.

"Some of the players here really can play and we have got a whole lot of talent coming through the system and hopefully one of these kids will be putting on the Socceroos jersey," says organiser Ahmed Dini.

The competition is also expected to foster talent and improve lives as well.

"We try to make sure we can open up pathways to employment for these people who are participating but also developing the capacity of young people as the next level of leadership," says organiser Stuart Gillespie.

And with more ethnic groups involved, the event is getting bigger and bigger.

This year, the competition has increased from 12 teams to 17 - five interstate, 11 from across Melbourne and an international New Zealand side.

The Kiwis seemed to have all the chances early in their qualifiying match against Collingwood.

But after a half-time pep talk it was the 'Woods that dominated, with the locals running out three-nil winners.

Behind the joy, there are untold tales of hardship endured.

"So many of these boys have got stories that they don't actually tell . They have spent so many years in refugee camps before they have come out to Australia," says organiser Stuart Gillespie.

Where's there's plenty of support on the sidelines and football skills on show from the next generation of budding African- Australians.



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