From Morocco to South Africa it doesn’t matter what the football is made out of – plastic or skin - you will see football played in Africa. It is an obsession. At the highest level, many of the game’s finest players have come from Africa. Didier Drogba, Toure and Kanu to name a few. They are often adopted and even naturalised by the country they play most of their football - a testament to football’s role in breaking down racial barriers.
It is not surprising that African refugees and migrants have a burning desire to play football in their adopted countries. The City of Casey in Victoria, for instance, has a number of Local government associations where 40-60% of its inhabitants are born overseas. Emerging communities are dealing with many of the barriers of participation to sport, most notably the lack of social connection in a new country. To their credit the local African community have taken the initiative and made crucial alliances in order to play football in Australia. The Divine Restoration Church is one organisation assisting in building communities, by giving opportunities to Africans to develop teams.
After receiving an application from the church, Sports Without Borders assisted Africans from 20 countries to play in a gala event with three other African nation teams - Sandown Lions (Sudanese), the Melbourne Liberian Community, the Sierra Leone Community and the Divine Restoration Church multicultural team.
The gala event was held on 28th September, 2013, celebrating the anniversary of the launch of the Divine Restoration Church in Doveton. The event was sponsored because it brings different communities together, through the church and provides an opportunity for communities who are not connected to be involved in multicultural sporting activities.
“Unfortunately we were unable to finish the tournament before the final was played due to a serious injury to a player. There are hopes to play the final in the future,” says Brother Paul. The time lapse between the finals is being treated as an opportunity for different African communities to iron out their differences. “The church is acting as a mediator and has spoken to each individual and coach and there are hopes to replay the final. We are trying to develop the boys’ moral code, give them direction, build community teams and get them out of their bad habits.”
The role of sport in bringing people together is clearly a focus of the Divine Restoration Church – a very powerful mechanism for communities to join as one.