Abdi Rizak has been one of City in the Community’s most influential Young Leaders since first joining an I Speak Football program as a participant four years ago.
Born in Australia, Abdi spent most of his childhood in the East African country of Kenya before returning to his place of birth.
“I was born in Australia and then my family and I moved to Kenya for 10 years before returning to Australia when I was 14 in 2015,” Abdi said. “I started studying at Charles La Trobe College where I graduated last year (2019) and now I’m studying electrical engineering at RMIT University.”
“One day, City in the Community came to my school - Charles La Trobe - to run a football clinic and told us they’d be running weekly activities around the corner if we were interested in attending,” he added. “So, I attended with my friends and we played football and I thoroughly enjoyed it and knew immediately that I wanted to come back.”
With a beaming smile on his face, Abdi recalls the moment he knew he was in his element and here to stay.
“I continued to attend the I Speak Football program week after week and loved it,” he said.
“There was a time during the school holidays where the team was hosting a clinic with children from each of their programs, including Fitzroy and Carlton, the community team asked me if I wanted to be involved and referee the mini tournament – that’s the moment I really realised how much I enjoyed it and how much I wanted to get more and more involved.”
Four years on from his first taste of it all, Abdi is thriving as one of the team’s most loved and respected Young Leaders.
“I’m now responsible for looking after our I Speak Football program at our local community 5-a-side pitch, Malahang Reserve,” he explained. “This includes looking after the kids, creating fun activities for them and ensuring that safeguarding practices are always fulfilled.”
“I also participate in different programs, supporting the City in the Community staff and different programs across Melbourne.”
Reflecting on a challenging 2020, Abdi has credited the lockdown period and his responsibilities as a Young Leader for a lot of personal growth.
“Everything changed with COVID, I went from running mostly outdoor clinics to only online,” he said. “I had never done an online presentation in my life and I was asked to do a presentation in front of all the other Young Leaders – I was so nervous to begin with but I knew it was something I had to learn how to do and something that would become a lot more common.”
“So once I successfully completed that first presentation I felt great, it gave me a lot of hope, encouragement and confidence in myself – it showcased how we also develop as leaders and individuals while supporting young children in our local community do the same.”
Our Young Leaders are invaluable to young members of our local community. They provide guidance, leadership and act as mentors to many children as well as educating them on important values.
“The most rewarding aspect for me is giving children an opportunity, an opportunity to play football, have fun and interact with others outside of school,” Abdi said.
“When I was in high school in Kenya, we didn’t have these opportunities as the focus was always on studying rather than playing outside. To have an opportunity to play football in an inclusive environment for free is invaluable for these children,” he added.
City in the Community will host their fifth straight Young Leaders Training Program in January – a program that has been extremely valuable for many of our current leaders.
“Being a Young Leader is extremely rewarding, when I’m working with children from my local community and teaching them, it feels like I’m giving back to my younger brothers and sisters,” he said.
“I try and teach them from my own life experiences and what I think is valuable like the importance of social inclusion and the importance of communication. Being a Young Leader has changed my life, it’s impact on me as an individual is beyond words.
“It’s given me an opportunity beyond just playing football - to give back to my community and help children understand the importance of social inclusion.”
City in the Community's Young Leaders training program will be run between Tuesday 19 January and Friday 22 January 2021 between 10:00am - 3:30pm at the City Football Academy in Bundoora, Melbourne. Click here to register today.