With Refugee Week 2022 coming to an end, we continue to celebrate our refugee communities in Australia and the way in which football has the power to unite.
Vida Opoku-Agyemang is an African-Australian refugee from Ghana, West Africa, who took part in the NSW African Cup last year. Although it has been running since 1999, it was the first time women were able to compete.
Six nations took part in the women’s competition: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Sierra Leone.
Playing in the tournament was the highlight of an emotional journey for Opoku-Agyemang.
“Growing up in Africa, women are not supposed to play ball. You are expected to help your mum in the kitchen; cooking, cleaning… Girls are supposed to do, ‘girls’ stuff’ not play sport,” the registered nurse explained.
“Due to that, getting family support is difficult, even when you are good. I had a family member tell me to stop playing football because nothing could come of it, which was discouraging.
“I also come from a poor background, so I didn’t have boots or a jersey,” Opoku-Agyemang continued.
“I remember countless times where I played barefoot or without shin pads and was injured many times, but if you love the game, you love the game. Football is everything, it’s part of my identity nobody can take away from me.”
Vida played in the NSW African Cup for Ghana, bowing out in Round 3 against eventual tournament winners, Sierra Leone.
Opoku-Agyemang wants to further encourage coaches and the public to attend tournaments like the NSW African Cup to see the talent on show and potentially find the next A-League star, CommBank Matilda or Socceroo.
“I hope the African Women’s Cup is scouted for players because I believe we have some great, quality players who are capable of playing in the A-League Women’s,” she said
“We need more opportunities to showcase what we can do. It’s sad to see talent go to waste because of a lack of opportunities, but the fact that there is NSW African Women’s Cup shows how much the game has changed.
“We have many girls of African heritage who are good players. A competition like this definitely opens up opportunities for those of us who have been working really hard and that’s exciting.”