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Sunshine Heights Football Club: motivated coach gives back through sport

As the son of Italian migrants who came to Australia in 1960, Renato Olivier understands that sport is a powerful tool for social inclusion.

Growing up, Olivier was not allowed to play organised sport, and despite his parent’s wishes he would jump the fence to attend practice. He’s not proud of disobeying his parents, or finding his first footy boots on a power line, but Olivier loved footy then, and still does now. 

His upbringing has catalyzed his passion for helping kids from new and emerging communities play footy at Sunshine Heights Football Club.

“People don’t understand why I help these kids, but I do it because you can’t turn the clock back and I want these kids to have what I couldn’t.”

Olivier is the coach of the Sunshine Heights Football Club’s U12s team, and his voice beams with passion when he talks about the team.

“I can’t say enough about what these Brimbank City Council programs do for the community,” says Olivier. “These kids have never been able to play, but are passionate and hungry. And they are given an opportunity to play.”

Sunshine Heights Football Club is made up of a multicultural community, with players from Chinese, Italian, Sudanese, Maltese, Russian and Croatian backgrounds and boasts a truly welcoming and friendly atmosphere.

“Everyone bonds at Sunshine Heights Football Club,” says Olivier. “And everyone gets along with everyone. The club is made up of good families.”

For two years Olivier has coached three young boys from the Sudanese community, and notes their athletic ability and enthusiasm.

“Bol is eleven and is an outstanding football player, and he and his thirteen year old brother, Atem, are a credit to their parents. And Chien’s got a lot of charm for a twelve year old, and always goes in for the tackle.”

In their first season, 2013, the team had a fantastic year and made it to the grand final but lost by nine points. And in the 2014 season, the team was promoted to Grade A, which proved to be a much tougher competition.

But the higher grade and stronger opposition only fueled the boy’s enthusiasm to play.

As a full back and midfield, Bol found last season was “hard”.

“We played teams with lots of skill but we learned from our mistakes,” says Bol. “And I’m looking forward to next year’s season." 

Bol particularly enjoys the training because you get to more experience, and his footy highlights are “teamwork, making friends and singing the club song.”

Chien says the season was “fun, exciting and amazing” and can’t wait until next year where he aims to kick more goals. The best part of the last season was playing with his friends and practicing techniques.

Bol’s older brother, Atem, describes footy as “fun, cool and awesome” and says “thanks to everyone who encouraged us, like the coaches and all the other helpers”.

It is undeniable that Brimbank City Council’s In2Sport program encourages kids like Bol, Atem and Chien to engage in welcoming and multicultural sports clubs like Sunshine Heights Football Club. These programs support kids from new and emerging communities to integrate into society, and reap the social, physical and mental benefits of playing sport.

This story was powered by Sports Without Border’s Social Inclusion Through Sports (SITS) Program.