School of Public Health and Community Medicine

The other Australian team at the World Cup

Image - The other Australian team at the World Cup

As the Socceroos brace for their first test in the so-called Pool of Death, a group of teenagers is preparing to jet off for Brazil in what may well be Australia’s best World Cup hope.

UNSW’s Football United is a grassroots program in Western Sydney with players coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, including refugee and migrant communities. Six players will represent Australia at the 2014 Football for Hope tournament.

Held on the sidelines of the World Cup, Football for Hope will see 32 teams from across the globe fight it out for the title of Street Football World Champions. The event celebrates diversity and social change through football.

The players chosen to represent Australia have overcome disadvantage and hardship on their road to Rio. Two are Afghan refugees and a third fled Sudan with her family.

“Football has transformed their lives,” says UNSW Football United founder Anne Bunde-Birouste from UNSW's School of Public Health and Community Medicine. “For some, it’s the only stability they have had. For others, it has helped them better connect with other kids their age.”

This is the second time UNSW’s Football United has been at the World Cup. At the 2010 competition in South Africa, the team made the quarter-finals. This time around, they will be gunning for a title against stiff competition from reigning champions, Kenya’s Mathare Youth Sports Association.

The team held one of its final training sessions at Blacktown International Sportspark Football Centre recently.

Media contact: Susi Hamilton, UNSW Media Office, 0422 934 024