“We learn together, create together, work together, sing, dance and play together. We live together. That is the meaning of International Migrants Day and its message.”
As we have all experienced time and time again, football, the world game, possesses a powerful ability to unite.
Over the past decades, Australia’s rich multicultural society has manifested in the game we love.
Within grassroots communities, those of endlessly diverse backgrounds naturally gravitate to football clubs for a taste of home and an opportunity to express themselves.
On the international stage, we have seen players descending from all over the world pull on the Green and Gold with pride.
According to the United Nations, “International Migrants Day this year focuses on the stories of social cohesion, which are as varied and unique as each of the 272 million migrants living new lives and building new communities in every corner of the globe.”
Anyone who is familiar with football is familiar with these stories.
Football Australia’s recent Generations of Australians campaign brought the diverse backgrounds of our national team stars to life.
From the Kerrs, the Mabils and the Catleys to the unforgettable Nonna Gina Logarzo, the series was a powerful way of showcasing our nation’s cultural fabric through the lens of football.
Not to mention Rale Rasic, the man responsible for taking us to our first ever FIFA World Cup in 1974.
After losing both of his parents during World War II and growing up in an orphanage, Rasic departed Yugloslavia for Australian shores in the early 1960s.
His thick accent may persist to this day, but ‘The Boss’ maintains that he is ‘as true blue as anyone’ and vividly recalls the ‘twenty-cent piece tears’ that flowed down his face as the Australian national anthem rang out at the game’s greatest stage in West Germany.
These days, our current crop of Socceroos include players of Scottish, South Sudanese, Croatian, Austrian, Greek, Afghan, Nicaraguan, Thai, Italian, Indonesian and Serbian decent.
The Westfield Matildas have seen players with English, Scottish, Italian, Croatian, Indian, Estonian, Swedish, Norwegian and Chinese heritage unite to represent Australia.
On a domestic level, the FFA Cup has provided a valuable platform for tight-knit communities to express their cultural tradition on the national stage.
Clubs originating from migrant groups, including the likes of APIA Leichhardt, Avondale and South Melbourne have all enjoyed deep runs in the competition since its inception.
While the Cup will not be awarded in 2020, the passionate supporter base behind these clubs has been on full display as Croatian club Sydney United 58 and Macedonian outfit Rockdale Ilinden FC both lifted silverware during the NPL NSW season.
International Migrants Day is the perfect time to recognise the contribution of football in forging social cohesion within one of the world’s most multicultural societies.
This power is one we must continue to embrace and harness, not only for the good of the sport, but also to assist in making every new football-loving Australian feel at home.
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