Heart Community Sponsorship Streets Ahead

The recent rise of community based soccer in underprivileged communities has been a welcome antidote to the sometimes impersonal and elite nature of professional sport.

The recent rise of community based soccer in underprivileged communities has been a welcome antidote to the sometimes impersonal and elite nature of professional sport.

However, even the most hopeful of Melbourne-s emerging brigade of Street Soccer players could only have dreamed of ever being coached by a former European champion.

But that-s all about to change, as Melbourne Heart FC and Metlink join forces in a new initiative to back The Big Issue-s ‘Community Street Soccer Program-.

As the club-s inaugural short sponsor for the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 season, Metlink will use the badgeing rights of the Heart-s ‘back of short- sponsorship to promote the Community Street Soccer Program.

Street Soccer works to engage homeless and marginalised members of Melbourne-s community in organised training and development sessions.

While many clubs have used their strips to promote one-off charity events, with Metlink-s support, this is the first time a professional Australian club has permanently devoted part of its uniform sponsorship to a non-commercial or community based cause, and follows similar moves in recent years by Spanish giant Barcelona.

The program will feature Heart Head Coach, Ajax legend and ex-Dutch star John van ‘t Schip as its ambassador.

The ‘Heart- of the Community Street Soccer Program involves weekly training sessions at permanent pitches located in 30 underprivileged communities across Australia, where playing equipment and a dedicated soccer coach are provided.

Participants get fit, make new friends and seek support and advice. Support staff also work closely with players, linking them to services that address homelessness, substance abuse, family breakdown, grief and loss and mental illness.

Metlink CEO Dale Larkin believes that there is a direct and real relationship between sport, public transport and the city-s underprivileged and that bringing them together in a positive initiative is a genuine community builder.

“This partnership is extremely relevant to public transport as many staff come across disadvantaged and marginalised people on our network everyday,” he said.

“Teaming up with Heart and involving their players and our staff in the Street Soccer program will help to create better interactions on the network.

“We know that sport creates strong bonds between people, whether it-s watching it or taking part.

“Street Soccer participants and our staff will also come together at Melbourne Heart games and share pre-match barbeques to really forge these ties, find common ground and develop trust amongst the group.”

To find out more about The Big Issue-s Community Street Soccer Program, visit www.thebigissue.org.au/streetsoccer.