South Melbourne Football Club, which plays in the top division of Victoria’s National Premier League competition, is targeting talented young African-Australians in a new recruitment program.
The club’s youth director, Peter Kokotis, and junior coach, Emanuel Saakai, are lobbying for financial backing to create bursaries for African players.
“We have a GoFundMe page, which we are getting out there to people. Every little bit helps to try and get some kids, give them the opportunity to change their lives,” Mr Kokotis said.
Such is the hardship faced by many young men that the club last year chose six African boys during a trial process and none of them could afford to play.
“I realised these boys are not able to take the opportunity because of the fees involved at the club registration,” he said.
Mr Kokotis said football had become a middle-class sport in Australia, which excluded many on lower incomes.
Tanzania-born Mr Saakai is working with African communities to find the right talent for the club.
“South Melbourne is a great place where African aspiring footballers can call home, a place where they can feel respected, valued and given full attention for their talents to be developed and nurtured,” Mr Saakai said.
“Every day I’m realising that we are very familiar and similar when it comes to our cultures, whether Tanzanian, African, and the Greek culture. It is all about family, community, being expressive, giving your all, competing and being one.”
Mr Tong, who is at high school, is hoping to showcase his football skills and impress the coaches when trials begin next month.
“It will be great to play for South Melbourne if I make it,” Mr Tong said.
“I will do everything in my life to play football professionally. I will listen to my coaches and learn what they will teach.
“This is me. This is how I grew up, fighting for everything, and at the end of the day when you fight, you win, and when you win, it is a reward.”
Sourced By: ABC News