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Olympic judo coach helps teenage asylum seekers

Shaheen and Hussain.

Talented teenagers Shaheen and Hussain Moghadamshaidie could represent NSW in judo at the National Championships if they can raise the money to travel to qualifying competitions around the country.

The boys, aged 15 and 16, have already impressed state and national coaches after Settlement Services International (SSI) and their Castle Hill judo club supported their enthusiasm to participate in the Olympic sport. SSI is a leading not-for-profit organisation providing a range of services in the areas of humanitarian settlement, accommodation, asylum seeker assistance and foster care in NSW.

Hussain and his brother Shaheen have been living in the community along with their father, mother and baby brother, awaiting the outcome of an application for refugee status since July last year.

The family is supported by SSI and is currently living in North Parramatta on bridging visas.

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said Shaheen and Hussain had immediately wanted to start judo training when they arrived in Australia but their family had no money to pay for registration or uniforms.

“Judo is one of the most popular sports in the boys’ country of birth, Iran, so they were eager to look for a judo club to train with in Australia,” Ms Roumeliotis said.

“Because they are on bridging visas, their parents are unable to work and had limited funds to pay for judo costs.

“Shaheen and Hussain were lucky enough to find the Budokan Judo Club in Castle Hill, which is run by former Olympic coach and organiser of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games judo competition Rob Katz.

“Mr Katz and his club have very generously sponsored the boys by paying their costs for the first 12 months of membership. This includes four judo uniforms partially sponsored by the club’s supplier Sensei’ Martial Arts.

“But, from the boy’s success in the sport, the family now needs about $700 to pay for travel and accommodation to events in order to qualify for the National Championships.”

Ali Moghadamshaidie, the boys’ father, said Mr Katz and the Budokan Judo Club had treated them like family.

“This club is not only for Judo,” he said, “this club, for me and my sons, my wife and baby son, is like a school or family.”

“We have no family here or friends, this club is very good for us.”

Mr Katz is one of Australia’s most experienced judo experts. He has coached athletes to three world championships and coached his wife Kerry to the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. Mr Katz was also employed as Sports Services Manager to organise the judo competition for the 2000 Sydney Games.

Mr Katz said Shaheen and Hussain’s father approached him about the boys joining the club last year but said nothing of their plight.

“Their father called me first and said they were doing judo in Iran but hadn’t been training for a year,” Mr Katz said.

“Only later did I find out it was because they were in a detention centre.

“I thought it was amazing that one of the first things they wanted to do was get on a mat and start training in judo again.

“After a few weeks Ali called and said the boys were at home very upset because they had no money for judo.

“I said, if they want to train bring them down to the club and we’ll work something out.”

Rob said it was immediately obvious the boys had a passion and strong fighting spirit.

“Obviously they have been out of training for a year, so some of the technique isn’t quite there but what they have is fight. They know how to fight and you can’t always teach that.”

Rob said Shaheen and Hussain were good enough to make the NSW team if they could compete at the qualifying competitions in Canberra, Queensland and Shoalhaven and participate at State Squad training.

The brothers said they were extremely thankful for their coach’s support.

”He is a very nice man, very kind,” Hussain said.

Hussain added that he hoped to represent NSW and one day compete for Australia.

“I like judo because I see it on TV at Olympic Games,” he said.

“One day I want to be like them and go to Olympic Games for Australia.”

SSI and Budokan Judo Club are now appealing to anyone interested in sponsoring the boys to contact the club to discuss how they can support their campaign to make the NSW team.

Shaheen and Hussain next need to compete in the ACT International Open, February 22-23, in Canberra.




Media enquiries:

SSI Online Communications Coordinator, Callan Lawrence, 0478 156 491, or 02 8799 6746

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