United Through Football Launch

The African community in Melbourne gathered at the home ground of the Heidelberg Stars Soccer Club on Sunday afternoon for the launch of the new Football Federation Victoria program United Through Football.

By David Manuca

The African community in Melbourne gathered at the home ground of the Heidelberg Stars Soccer Club on Sunday afternoon for the launch of the new Football Federation Victoria program United Through Football.

United Through Football aims to promote diversity and social connection through the universal language of football.

To date FFV has invested over $110,000 into the United Through Football program and as a result has assisted 40 community clubs and over 3,000 newly arrived people to Australia.

Melbourne Heart player Kamal Ibrahim, who was born in Ethiopia before moving to Australia in 2003, was in attendance in his role as ambassador for the United Through Football program and spoke about the true power of football to the community.

"I'm very proud to be a part of this program and it's fantastic to see all the kids here playing football and that's what they want to do, just play all day." said Ibrahim.

"Today shows that football, as the world game, really is used by newly arrived and culturally diverse communities to connect with their new home - Australia and local community."

"Football is a very powerful language and it-s the game that unites us all around the world."

"When I first arrived in Australia I never knew if they played football or what language they spoke. One day this boy took me to a local club and from there began my journey to where I am today."

The launch was also attended by State Member for Ivanhoe, Anthony Carbines MP, Banyule City Council Councillor Craig Langdon, Cameron McLeod from VicHealth, FFV CEO, Mark Rendell and FFV President, Nick Monteleone.

Monteleone also spoke about the important of football and sport to the community and praised the Heidelberg Stars for their effort to provide that to newly arrived people to Australia.

"This is a fantastic day for everyone involved in the United Through Football program. Football provides genuine access to all members of the community and it welcomes people of all backgrounds, ages, genders and abilities." Monteleone said.

"Nothing builds communities better than sport and this club (Heidelberg Stars) is just one of many throughout the state who have a diverse group of people who are brought together by their passion for football."

United Through Football was made possible by VicHealth, a long time partner of Football Federation Victoria, who also announced they will be contributing $750,000 to the program until 2013.

The Heidelberg Stars competed in a small six-a-side match against a 'legends' team made up of Melbourne Heart CEO, Scott Munn, SEN-s Francis Leach, Soccer International editor Engel Schmidl and Professional Footballers Association executive Will Hastie along with Kamal Ibrahim with the legends coming out winners with a 4-3 victory.