July 24, 2021

Football, a refuge for children seeking asylum in Australia

When she arrived in Australia with her family, she knew only three English words for salt, apples and eggs.

It was her love of football that prompted her to knock on the door of Football United, an NGO helping the integration of refugees. And his life has changed.

Football United gave me confidence in English and I started to open my heart to everyone“, she tells AFP during a”gala day“in Sydney, a friendly meeting between teams.

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I made a lot of friends at Football United. Now most of them are my best friends. I love communicating with people, especially young people like me.

Refugees figure prominently in Australian football history.

Frank Lowy, the ex-president of the Australian football federation, a billionaire businessman, is a former Jewish refugee from Eastern Europe who arrived in the 1950s with only one suitcase and not knowing a word of english.

– French inspiration –

Veteran sports journalist Lee Murray, now deceased, whose voice became synonymous with football in Australia, was born in Hungary in 1945 as Laszlo Urge, and had landed in the vast country-continent ten years ago later.

In recent years, several associations such as Football United have come to the aid of young refugees such as Iraqi Sarah Glaoo, 17, and Syrian Suliman Alkhateeb, 19.

Both arrived in Sydney in 2016 as Australia granted 12,000 additional refugee places to people fleeing conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

The American founder of the Football United program, Anne Bunde-Birouste, explains that she drew her inspiration from the 1998 Football World Cup: she was living in Paris at the time and was impressed by the euphoria around the France team “black-white-beur“victorious -“beur“meaning of Arabic origin, Editor’s note.

France won against all odds because the team was multicultural. It brought the whole country together“, she believes.

She has “wanted to see what we could do in Australia to help refugee children“and thus launched, years later, the Football United initiative to offer young refugees the opportunity to play football regularly. Thousands of them have taken part in it.

– Low cost –

One of the key elements is the low cost for families in a country where club sport is expensive, says Natasha Hill, the NGO’s communications coordinator, who lives off donations.

This allows young people who come mostly from Syria, Iraq, Sudan and Burma to improve their football skills while immersing themselves in Australian culture.

Most come from torn families“, said Mrs. Hill to the AFP.”Australia is multicultural and when they come here it is new to them. With our program, we help them integrate into other cultures.

Honey Thaljieh, director of corporate communications at FIFA, the international football federation, grew up in the Palestinian territories.

She was present at the “gala dayUnited Football Association to encourage the participants, believing that football has a role to play in helping children who have endured conflict.

If they believe in it, their lives will ultimately be changed – if they are determined and if they work hard.“the co-founder of the Palestinian women’s football team told AFP.

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Sport in general and football in particular is the best tool for young adults, for children, girls and boys. Because sport is inclusion, it’s the idea of ​​bringing people together.



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