SPORT is playing an integral role in supporting the immersion of people from migrant backgrounds in regional Victoria.
THE Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council (BRMC) and Ballarat City Football Club (BCFC) are joining forces this weekend to present an inaugural friendly football tournament to foster community participation and engagement for people from emerging migrant and refugee communities who live in the region.
Chudiar Ruben Tharjiath is a 20-year-old senior soccer player with big dreams to play as a forward in the A-league.
He has been playing soccer since he was five years old and looks up to players like Leroy Sané and Marcus Rashford.
“I used to watch a lot of older guys who would play when I lived in Africa – I used to analyse them and developed a passion for soccer from that.”
As a migrant from Kenya, Chudiar found it difficult to connect with his Australian classmates when he began attending school.
“I could speak English, but not great. I didn’t know how to make friends because I was a bit shy. I didn’t really speak to the guys in my class but at recess they were playing soccer and I joined in – it was that easy,” he said.
"Soccer is a universal way of communicating and making friends.”
Chudiar’s dream is to one day play in the A-league for Melbourne Victory, for the country that has given him so many opportunities.
“I am just so grateful to be in this country – it has given me so many opportunities to pursue my dreams. I know there’s a lot of very talented players back home that don’t have the opportunity to play. I am grateful for the support I get in this club,” Chudiar said.
He said it was great for migrant kids with passion for the sport to be supported by their communities to play at such an elite level.
“It’s not easy fitting in, coming from where we come from. Migrant kids do struggle a lot but sport really helps us to be included so we feel a part of something. That’s very important for us.”
Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council executive officer Ann Foley said the event was a vibrant celebration of community, sport and diverse cultures.
Migrant kids do struggle a lot but sport really helps us to be included so we feel a part of something.Chudiar Ruben Tharjiath
“Our multicultural and intercultural networks have produced a tournament of eight participating teams from Nhill, Horsham, Shepparton, Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong. We are also delighted to host a Rohingyan team from metropolitan Melbourne.
“They are coming together in a great spirit of enthusiasm to spend this day together.”
Ballarat City FC chairman Daniel Firth said BCFC was proud to support such an important event.
“Regional Victoria offers people a great place to live and offers people opportunities to grow, thrive and develop,” he said. “Sport contributes to this in so many ways, providing connection, health and personal challenge, as well as lifelong friendships and networks.”
It is hoped the game will become an annual event.
The tournament will be followed by the regional launch and screening of the VicSport short film, titled I’ll Stand With You, which promotes inclusiveness in sport and features some of Ballarat City FC’s players.
The Interkultura event will take place at Morshead Park from 1pm on Saturday, February 9.