Using soccer to bring people together

More than 30 people enjoyed a trip to Melbourne to watch a game of soccer. Pictures: CONTRIBUTEDTHE game might have finished 0-0, but plenty of goals were kicked off the pitch on Saturday night as Bendigo police members entertained recently-arrived refugee children at the soccer.

Senior Sergeant John Dalton and Sergeant Adam Woods took about 30 people from Bendigo’s Afghan and Karen communities, as well as players from Bendigo City Soccer Club,to see Melbourne Victory take on Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park.

The trip to Melbourne was part of a joint venture between Victoria Police and Bendigo Community Health, with Melbourne Victory Football Club providing the tickets.

Sergeant Woods said it was a great way to integrate new Australians into the community using a common language –soccer.

“They all love soccer and quite a few of them are handy players as well,” he said.

“A lot of these children come from settlement camps where they might have been for several years.

“In these camps, one of the main things they used to do –one of the things that gave them the most enjoyment –was to play soccer.”

The Bendigo Amateur Soccer League has a large number of Karen players, while several have also risen through the ranks at Bendigo City.

People from Bendigo’s Afghan and Karen communities, as well as Golden City Soccer Club, enjoyed the action.

Some of the children who went to the soccer on Saturday had only been in Australia for six months.

Sergeant Woods said the trip was a way of building on that interest in soccer, which in turn would help to introduce them to more people in Bendigo.

The groups had previously headed to Melbourne to attend a training session with Victory players, while the AFL had provided free tickets during its Multicultural Round.

While the football match had attracted intrigue and some bemusementfrom the recently-arrived refugees, the familiar skill and pace of soccer drew the greatest interest.

Senior Sergeant Dalton was also part of a trip to New Zealand withyoung new Australians from Bendigo and Echucalate last year.

The Blue Light Victoria program sought to build on leadership skills in young people with team building challenges.

Senior Sergeant Dalton said it was also a way of building trust with police officers.

“It was also evident that by the end of the tour all the children had seen another side of policing, that Bernie and I were actually normal people outside of the police uniform,” he said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.