Burmese kids around the community used to turn up to the Esther Park in Mooroolbark and play soccer when the local teams weren’t using the field. When the club started to watch them play and admire their skills they wanted to find out a way to welcome them to the Mooroolbark Barkers Soccer Club.
In 2014, the Burmese Chin community would organise their own games where hundreds of them would turn up and would use the club’s facilities. When the club reached out to the community, the bond between the Barkers and the Burmese Chin grew on from there. Vice president Mick Ashworth admired their skill which left him in awe of the players’ talent. “Their control of the ball is outstanding. The speed they’ve got is incredible,” he said. He added that their talent was second to none and strengthened their bond with the team.
Bringing them in and getting them to adapt to a structured team play was difficult for the club, but Ashworth thinks it was worth it. For the first couple of years they played on their own and only passed to their own friends. It took awhile for the kids to understand that they needed to pass the ball to everybody and play with the rest of the team.
Mooroolbark Soccer Club had arranged an information night for the Burmese community which is when Sports Without Borders started to lend a hand by arranging an interpreter to break down the language barrier. The information sessions helped the parents to understand what the club can offer their children and how they money they pay goes toward uniforms and maintaining the club house.
The parents were able to receive funding from Sports Without Borders of up to 70% off the membership fee in their child’s first year and from there the funding decreased over the next three years, should they continue playing with the club.
Playing together with the local kids has really opened up a connection in the community for them, with team members learning different skills from each other. This year, 2016, the initiative will directly benefit 15-20 young people playing at Mooroolbark Soccer Club and their families, indirectly benefitting over 100 people from newly arrived communities.
Photo by Mick Ashworth
Special thanks to the Yarra Ranges Council