Football it’s a game for everyone, and anyone should have the right to play, and the NPL3 Ballarat City club is leading the way in enabling more participation within their community.
On the final day of NPL3, Ballarat City’s Diversity Round made its return in its clash with North Sunshine.
The club held an African-themed day with music and food throughout the day with the help of f Football Victoria (FV) and the Australian Human Rights Commission with the participation of Racial Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan.
Ballarat City Football Club General Manager Stacey Berland said the event was aimed at raising awareness and telling the stories of refugees at the club.
“We wanted to show why it was really important to have these players at our club,” he said.
“Not just this club but this sport because this is the world’s game.
“We have such a diverse range of people who play this game, and we should celebrate it.
“We’re trying to create an awareness of acceptance no matter what your background or culture is because we all deserve to play the game and we shouldn’t put ourselves at a disadvantage for any reason.”
The idea for the Diversity Round started in 2017 when there was a group of African kids in the club who wanted to play but couldn’t afford the fees.
“I was talking to Julie Barkly, whose husband Michael was on the board at the time and when she heard about the 15 very talented young people who couldn’t afford to play, she tried to give them support and find sponsorship for the kids. to play,” recalled Berlund.
“Julie told me that people just don’t care, but I told her it’s not that people don’t care, it’s that people just don’t understand wrestling.”
The day was very successful for the club as they were able to avoid relegation with a 3–0 victory over sixth-placed North Sunshine Eagles.
“North Sunshine loved the event, they were very engaged and even want to replicate it themselves,” said Berlund.
“There was genuine excitement after the game, it was an exciting 90 minutes.
“Getting away from the relegation spot was incredible for the club, the boys were ready for the fight.”
On that day, Ballarat City wore a shirt designed by Tanzanian-born player Charlie King.
“My mother’s tribe is the Masai tribe, and it’s one of the largest and most well-known tribes in Tanzania and Kenya,” King said.
“The masks that make up the print are traditional Masai masks used in celebrations, initiations and preparation for war.
“I added the Black Panther symbol because it’s a great pop culture reference that ties into the Diversity Round.
“Just like football, the Black Panther movie gave us something that all ages and backgrounds could enjoy.”
FV’s head of diversity and inclusion Nick Hatzoglou, who encouraged the city of Ballarat to bring back the Diversity Round, said celebrating cultural diversity was “very important” for social cohesion.
“The beautiful game of football is at the forefront of this effort and Ballarat City has championed cultural inclusion in the Victoria region since 2018,” said Hatzoglou.
“Investing time and effort to embrace cultural diversity is a wonderful thing, especially in a multicultural society where we all have a role to play in our social cohesion.
“The Ballarat City Football Club, through Stacey Berlund, was able to bring together Luna from the Multicultural Commission of Victoria, the president of Mehmet, North Sunshine Eagles, the Australian Human Rights Commission of Chin Tan, the commissioner against racial discrimination , and to all the players and spectators”.
To continue to allow all players to play football in the region, Ballarat City Football Club has initiated the Refugee Player Participation Program.
The program ensures that all players, regardless of ethnicity, culture, religion, or other socioeconomic challenges they may face, have the opportunity to participate at the NPL level.
This project aims to raise funds to help local gamers of refugee background play the game they know and love.
If anyone wants to support the cause: Ballarat City Football Club – Australian Sports Foundation (asf.org.au)