A program that provides opportunities for refugee children and kids from diverse backgrounds to engage in one of the world’s favourite sports is calling on the community to donate their secondhand football boots and help these kids put their best foot forward.
The Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra (MCCI) in collaboration with Football South Coast and Football NSW have just kicked off their popular social football program for another year, in which young people aged 12 to 24 get a chance to connect with other likeminded kids in their community over a mutual passion.
“Football’s the world game and it doesn’t matter what language you speak you can play football,” program coordinator Steve Hancox said. “So it’s really a steppingstone for young people to get out and feel comfortable.”
The weekly sessions have been skyrocketing in popularity, last year attracting more than 80 participants from around 40 countries and cultures.
“A lot of the young boys and girls … they’re comfortable enough to come kick a ball even if they’re not ready to engage a bit more in their community,” Steve said.
“They end up meeting other people from their country, they get talking and tell them how great the area is and from there they build connections in the community and branch out, so it’s a really good way to start.”
It also helps them build relationships outside of the program itself, with MCCI connecting players with clubs around the region where they can play at different levels and expand their circles.
“Australia is getting more and more multicultural every day and the community is really behind it,” Steve said. “Figtree Football Club is amazing; they take all of our kids no matter what and it’s incredible.”
But while the passion is there from the start, financial restraints mean some participants are missing out on important equipment.
“We’ve had quite a big influx from African nations, and they all love football, but none of them have had boots,” Steve said.
“It comes in ebbs and flows; we’ve had years when kids have had boots or sourced their own, then we have periods where we get large amounts of new kids come in and they really need boots.”
MCCI is calling for players to dig out their own boots which they no longer wear or have grown out of and help make the sport more accessible.
“It’s little things that we probably take for granted too,” Steve said.
“If I need a new pair of boots I just go down and buy a pair; you don’t even think about it, but that’s not an option for everyone so it’s really nice to help out.”
And while giving someone the boots in the back of your cupboard may not seem like the most incredible gift, Steve said it was never taken for granted.
“Personally, I gave my old boots to an African kid and the smile on his face told more than anything I could say,” he said.
“The look on their faces just makes it all worthwhile.”
Boots can be dropped to the MCCI office at 117 Corrimal Street Wollongong or directly to the kids during sessions.
The program runs from 4 to 5:30 pm on Thursdays during the school term at the Fraternity Club in Fairy Meadow with additional sessions and tournaments held during school holidays.
To find out more or to get in touch visit the MCCI website.