I suppose in a way I didn’t have
that much choice. Coming from Brazil, the world game – soccer–is the biggest
sport and I love soccer but all the kids at the time in Perth were playing
AFL football so I thought to make friends you have to do what they do;
you have to play at lunch time etc. Football is a vehicle that helped me
integrate into society. You can all share in that one passion which is
football. It’s a game that brings people together. I was born in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil
to a Brazilian mother and a Congolese father.
I moved to Australia when I was three years old here in Victoria. I grew up
in Perth in Western Australia. I’ve been at the Collingwood Football Club
for four years now – this is my fifth year. I’m certainly settled in and I
really love playing here at Collingwood. As you grow older, at home, you start to
notice that you do different things to what your friends do at school.
Just little things like you might eat different foods or your mother might
speak with an accent and people find it hard to understand her.
All those little things that you start to notice at a young age and then when
you get a bit older, when you start getting into primary school, that’s when I started
to notice that I was from a culturally diverse background and I was discriminated
against unfortunately. That is something that has certainly evolved over time By participating in a popular pastime such
as sport and in our case Australian football, it helps people to integrate (into Australian
society) and it helps the resettlement process for a lot of people from newly arrived
communities. It’s a wonderful vehicle and entrée into Australian culture It was really tough at times. I can remember
in an Under 10’s game in Perth when I was playing with a team called Rossmoyne. I was
a good player then. I used to stand out a bit
obviously with the way I looked and because I
had a bit more ability than the other kids. Something that once happened in a game was
that some kids were calling me all the racist names
under the sun and I can clearly remember not wanting to play football again. I stormed
off the field and made a big scene and I said
that I’ll never play football again. It wasn’t until my stepfather spoke to me;
I call him my father; it wasn’t until my dad
spoke to me about some different ways to counter that (that I felt better).
It was a really positive message and that was the point that I realised that no matter
what people say they can’t stop you from achieving. Its (Australian football) so much more than
just a game. Here in Melbourne it’s the heartbeat of the city.
It’s such a great game. The game itself is
action packed. The contest, the one on one –
I love that element to it. I also love how much it means to other people.
I love how it’s such a family feeling once you are involved in the club. It’s like
a family. Everyone looks after you and everyone
wants to success and work together to achieve the same end result. I’m just so grateful
to be playing professional football.
Football has certainly given me a lot of opportunities. Being at a club like Collingwood
you meet so many people that are passionate about the club and are willing to help you
in any way. It’s not that you get spoon fed
but if you want to achieve anything or learn about
something, whether it be in business or another career path, there is always someone in the
organisation who has done it before so you can
go out and seek answers and advice and you’ll always get it. I think that’s the great
thing about it.
Not only the Collingwood Football Club but living in Australia itself. The reason why
so many people want to come to Australia is because
if you want to make something of your life you
can. You’ve got the opportunity. You have freedom.
That’s the beauty of it. I think the AFL encompasses all the Australian values of fair
go and mateship. I’m just so grateful to be part of such
a great organisation such as the AFL and more
specifically Collingwood. Some of the biggest barriers are, and we’ve
heard it before, transport, costs, unfamiliarity with the sports, sometimes,
the fear of racism, which is very disappointing. They’re some of the main ones There might be some challenges however everyone
is so much more tolerant of each other (these days)
and there’s an understandings for different cultures.
The overall tolerance (in the past) is certainly something that didn’t exist as much as it
does today. The parents are very important particularly
for the younger children because they are largely
the decision makers. For us it’s an integral part of our program
to communicate with the parents at every opportunity
and really convey that Australian football is an
outstanding way for their children to settle into
Australia and be a happier person because they
have that more all round experience. The parents are very important in that process. What you can do is to try and understand their
culture. From there, when you educate yourself, you
can share it with the rest of the team and people
who don’t come from culturally diverse backgrounds. That’s how the whole harmony process works
and starts. It takes someone to stand up and say
‘Right we want to include these people that aren’t involved’.
What we have to do first is, rather than sit back
and say they don’t share or they don’t try and
get involved, you have to be the one who stands up and says ‘Right we are going to get you
involved – we are not going to change who you
are but we are going to make who you are part of what the greater picture is’. The tips that I would give to coaches and
club committees is to get to know the young people
that are wanting join their club and actually (try to) mirror their community so that they
can see themselves in the club. That might be as simple as having your functions
at a time and in a way that is sensitive to different cultural traditions.
8.13 – 8.22 The Future For any people out there that are looking
for some advice, assistance or resources, we are
available and you can find us quite easily through the AFL website – www.afl.com; just
look under the multicultural section. We’ve got a number of resources there that
will be very useful. AFL is accessible to everyone and anyone.
For refugees living in the community and in the public housing – there’s programs
being run there. There are programs being run
everywhere. Almost every school in Victoria is
being exposed to AFL and AFL players first hand.
The challenges are limited. If you want to be
part of football you can and that’s beauty of it.