The Australian Football League is stepping up its efforts to connect more with people of migrant backgrounds through a team of ‘multicultural player ambassadors’.
The 11 players will complement the work of the AFL’s 10 multicultural officers around Australia.
They will work with the League’s Multicultural Unit, which aims to boost the number of players in the AFL from non-English speaking backgrounds through school programs.
The AFL says about 14 percent of its players are from non-English speaking backgrounds, and about 11 percent are Indigenous.
Bachar Houli, who plays for Richmond, says he’s honoured to be one of the new multicultual player ambassadors.
“We’ve got a great team here from different backgrounds and the main thing is we want to really focus on participation in sport in general. So it’s a great role that we’re involved and it’s a massive opportunity to get all these kids off the street to be involved in some sort of sport.”
Houli is from a Muslim background and as a player ambassador, will work to create sport programs in Islamic schools throughout Australia.
He says he is focused on being a good role model for children of all ethnic backgrounds.
“I’m also just teaching them about life. About embracing how lucky we are to live in this country and the other side of it is obviously teaching them respect and what respect means.”
Joel Wilkinson, whose father is from Nigeria, plays for the Gold Coast Suns in the A-F-L.
Wilkinson will lead a program in Queensland, which he says will promote equality among children.
“We’re all having fun. So no matter what team they’re on, they’re enjoying the game. We’re not about secluding and putting a group there or a cultural group there, it’s about embracing everyone as one and using this game to promote equality, diversity and have fun.”
Majak Daw is a refugee from Sudan and in 2009 he became the first Sudanese to be drafted by an A-F-L team.
Daw, who plays for North Melbourne, says he hopes his success on the field can be an inspiration to young players.
“I think I hopefully set a good example for my brothers and sisters. I’m one of nine children and I think the biggest passion of mine is giving back to the community and my mum and dad are really big advocates of helping other people out.”