Asylum seeker Abiat is originally from Iran but he and his Iranian friends threw their support behind Qatar during the Iran v Qatar match of the Asian Cup.
“We knew Iran would have many supporters, so we went along to cheer for Qatar,” Abiat said. “Iranian people have the same roots as Qatari people, and people from other countries surrounding Iran. We are happy to show support for all our neighbours.”
Abiat has joined dozens of Settlement Services International’s (SSI) asylum seeker and refugee clients at Asian Cup matches, thanks to tickets donated by Multicultural NSW.
At the game, Abiat and his friends waved Qatari flags and held up a larger flag displaying a green star. He explained: “the flag is a symbolic thing – Iran is made up of many people from different cultures, Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, etc. The flag shows unity; that despite being from different cultures, we all share a heritage.”
“Soccer is something everyone is interested in,” said Abiat. “Since we were young, everyone I know has followed it. But this [live Asian Cup] match was the first time we had been to something like that. There was a huge crowd. We enjoyed it tremendously. And although we were supporting Qatar, we were very happy when Iran won the match.”
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said Abiat’s views demonstrated soccer’s ability to bring people from around the globe together.
“Many of the refugees and asylum seekers supported by SSI have a relationship with soccer, whether that is as a player or fan or someone who has always wanted to participate but never had the opportunity to,” Ms Roumeliotis said.
“This sport allows people from all walks of life to come together around a shared passion, to celebrate one of the many commonalities between us all.”