DID you hear the one about the three Jews, the football and the research report?
University of NSW chancellor David Gonski, Football Federation Australia (FFA) deputy chairman Brian Schwartz and video journalist Dan Goldberg were all present last Friday for the official release of a report on the impact of Football United, an initiative that uses sport to help young refugees transition into Australian society.
The overwhelming conclusion of the report was that the program, which was founded in 2006 by the University of NSW’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine, has been a success.
“Its growth over six years has been enormous,” Gonski said.
“You only have to stand here with these kids and realise (a) how wonderful they are and (b) how they have been helped and [are] enjoying their lives even more by this program.
“Sport is a wonderful unifier, and I think that’s a terrific use of it.”
Football United combines a number of mechanisms to engage young people who have had refugee experiences with their communities and to promote cross-cultural harmony.
As well as participating in football programs and camps, young people partake in courses and workshops and apply their learning in coaching, mentoring, life skills, leadership and more.
The program also builds links between schools, participants and partner agencies, as well as creating awareness.
“We’ve [FFA] been involved in the program from day one,” Schwartz said.
“Everybody sees FFA as Socceroos and Matildas or the A-League, but the reality is we’re much more than that.
“We have 10 refugees now playing in the A-League.”
Goldberg, a former AJN editor, made the documentary film Passport to Hope, which chronicled Football United’s work and followed eight participants to South Africa where they participated in the Festival for Hope at the FIFA World Cup in 2010.
The self-described football tragic said he was delighted that the film, the idea for which started in a bar in Bondi, had had such a positive impact.
“The beauty of this project is it’s not about football. It uses football as a medium but it’s about the outcome, which is helping kids integrate into society,” Goldberg said.
“It’s the human story I’m interested in.”
Following the release of the report, it was announced that the Football United program is now be taken Australia-wide.
A photo from the production of Dan Goldberg’s film, Passport to Hope.