Football South Coast commenced a weekly Refugee Program in October 2018 to bring community members from different cultural backgrounds together in a safe and positive environment.
Given the demand of the program, it continued to run throughout 2019 with the support of Football South Coast, Multicultural Communities Council Illawarra (MCCI) and Football NSW through the Community FC program.
This program brings members of the community together via a common interest in the ‘world game’ of football and allows participants to become active in the community, meet new friends and network and has proven to be one of the most popular offered by MCCI.
Since the commencement of the program a total of 80 participants have since engaged with the Community FC program, with 30 individuals from this group transitioning into club football for the 2020 winter season.
‘As part of the settlement process, young people who are new to Wollongong encounter barriers to establish relationships and navigate systems of their new home. The program has enabled youth to access places in Wollongong, establish relationships, improve their English language and embrace a healthy lifestyle while being coached by professionals’, said Allyson Pazos, Youth and Community Manager, MCCI.
The positive impact of the initiative is demonstrated with 30 players from the group wanting to build relationships outside of the program. To date this is the most successful community program to date experienced throughout MCCI programs and other Football NSW Community FC supported initiatives.
Ann-Marie Balliana, CEO and MD of Football South Coast said “The overall aim of the program is to use football as a tool to engage people from refugee backgrounds. At present, with the wonderful support of MCCI and FNSW we are now working with 24 players from the program to create effective pathways and transition them to local clubs’.
The program and transition to local clubs has also been supported by Football NSW. Football NSW CEO Stuart Hodge said, ‘In understanding the social, behavioural and emotional outcomes football can have on these communities, we recognise the importance of supporting these players in becoming included and integrated into the community’.
Funding for the program was initially supported by the IMB Bank Community Foundation, and the continued support of FSC, MCCI and FNSW have ensured that the weekly program continues, in addition to supporting the transition to local community football.
– Football South Coast Media Release