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“financial”

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Soccer unites refugees but who will give them a game?

Soccer is often called the game that unites the world but a group of refugees and asylum seekers from around the globe have found financial obstacles in their attempt to unite as a team in Sydney. Players in the team unofficially known as Auburn United FC have come to Australia from Afghanistan, Africa, Nepal, Turkey and Tajikistan to find asylum. According to Settlement Services International (SSI) CEO Violet Roumeliotis, most of the team members are on bridging visas, which means they are unable to work. SSI provides case management and other support services to many of the refugee and asylum seeker members of the team. Other players are full-time overseas students. “Living on a tight budget, these players have no funds to pay registration fees of between $200 and $300 each to join an organised competition,” Ms Roumeliotis said. “Without support from a sponsor, they have no hope of playing the world game in Australia.” Their options for engaging in Sydney’s cultural life are limited but they come together to play soccer, or football to most of the world, every week. Until eight months ago, they formed only ad-hoc to play with whoever turned up to Auburn Park on any given night. But when Afghan asylum seeker and soccer coach Essa Khan, 44, found them kicking a ball in the dark while out walking, he quickly rounded them up in to a team. “It’s my passion and I like to give something to the young people,” Essa said with his Settlement Services International case manager Archana Ghale interpreting. “It helps their health, they can engage in an activity and avoid anti-social behaviour. “It’s better to play football than to get involved in alcohol or drugs.”

Acknowledging Anti-Poverty Week

SSI acknowledged the financial hardships faced by many of its clients by providing lunch prepared by chef Tony Sharpe for 50 SSI clients at its Community Kitchen in Ryde, during Anti-Poverty Week in October.