In Soccer We Trust: Community Reaches Out
Wednesday, 6th June 2012 at 11:40 am
A community soccer tournament in Melbourne’s north, organised by Darebin City Council and the Islamic Society of Victoria, has brought together people from many walks of life.
Guest writer Bill Snaddon went to the intercultural event.
The warm winter’s day matched the atmosphere of this inaugural tournament, hosted at East Preston Islamic College in Melbourne’s north on Saturday 2 June.
More than a 1000 people from the surrounding suburbs witnessed 16 men’s teams and eight women’s teams compete in the ‘Darebin Intercultural Cup’. The players, aged 16-19, live, work or study in the Darebin area.
The tournament – played out on the College’s newly installed astro-turf soccer pitch – formed part of Darebin City Council’s ‘Reaching Out’ project, also called the Salam Alykum project.
Darebin Intercultural Cup winning men's team
The project is a year-long undertaking to build cohesion between local Muslims and the broader community. It is coordinated by a diverse group of young people with families hailing from Somalia to Lebanon to Preston, with several countries and places in between. Many of the young people in the project’s organising committee are Muslims, and several of them attend East Preston Islamic College.
Manager of the Reaching Out project, Dalal Smiley, said Muslims make up about five per cent of Darebin’s population.
“A lot of work has gone into organising the tournament,” Smiley said. She was clearly thrilled that many local families and neighbours had come along to support the day. In addition to the soccer tournament, Smiley said the Reaching Out project was holding several other public events and information sessions.
The project is funded by the ‘Building Community Resilience Grants Program,’ part of the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department. Darebin City Council in partnership with the Islamic Society of Victoria received $100,000 to implement the project.
Mohammed Elleissy, youth worker at the Islamic Council of Victoria, was at the tournament to commentate the matches.
“The event was a great way to bring different communities together to share in our common humanity through soccer. We hope this will be the first of many more [tournaments] to come,” Elleissy said.
Darebin City Councillor Gaetano Greco, watching the final while chomping into a halal sausage in bread with plenty of tomato sauce, said “soccer is the best way to bring people together".
Cr Greco was on hand to present the trophies to the winning teams. He was impressed with the tournament’s “sense of interaction” and was proud to see Darebin “engaging the community through sport".
Coordinator of the Reaching Out project, Barney Wilson, said the event’s success was a testament to the efforts of Darebin’s young people who organised the day.
Many local schools entered teams in the tournament. Brunswick Secondary College and Coburg High School had loud-cheering contingents.
In the final of the boys division ‘Team Arsenal’ was defeated by ‘Team Monkey’, 3 goals to 5. Lockman Ramadan, 17, from Coburg High, scored 11 goals from his 5 games with Team Monkey and was a stand-out in the final.
“It was a terrific day, a great experience,” Ramadan said.
“It was also good to experience being champions,” he added as he was swamped by celebrating teammates.
Darebin Intercultural Cup winning women's team
Lockman, of Lebanese heritage, proudly spoke of his team’s cultural patrimony. Represented were players with Moroccan, Albanian, Somali, and Egyptian background.
Priya Alexander, 27, who is completing an internship at Moreland City Council to assist newly arrived migrants, was at the event to support Brunswick Secondary’s ‘Team Viper'.
“The boys really enjoyed themselves… it’d be great to see even more teams [if the event happens next year],” Alexander said.
Best player of tournament was awarded to Mouna El-Hayek, 16, from Pascoe Vale Girls College. And though Hayek echoed Cr Greco’s sentiments and said that the tournament was “really fun,” she also admitted that it was a good chance to take her mind off studying. Hayek’s team ‘Glenroy United’ defeated ‘Team Qatar’ in the girl’s final 3 goals to 1.
Glenroy United coach Petra Van Egmond, who is also aunty to most of her players, said the event was “well organised” but it might be improved by allowing older girls to also participate.
Manager of the Reaching Out project, Dalal Smiley, said Darebin Council had applied to the Attorney General’s Department for another grant. “This year exceeded expectations, we didn’t realise so many people would come along.”
The Darebin Intercultural Cup was held in conjunction with East Preston Islamic College’s ‘Family and Open Day’. Shanthi Antony, the College’s Teaching and Learning Coordinator, who was running a stall at the open day craft market, said: “It’s been a good day, I can see lots of parents and students, we need more of these occasions".
Principal of East Preston Islamic College, Ekrem Ozyurek OAM, said he’d seen people from “all walks of life” at the family day and soccer tournament.
Ozyurek, principal at the College for five years, said the school was “really pleased to be involved [with the Darebin project].” He added that most of the College’s 500 Muslim students were not born in Australia; many arrived here from countries such as Somalia, Egypt, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia.
As the winter sun was setting, players, parents, students and neighbours, all tired but happy, strolled out the school gates in search of parked cars. “I hope they put this on again next year,” was the consensus from the crowd.