Canberra Kangaroos refugee football club enters mainstream competition as players connect with new home

Page Oval is far from Canberra’s best-known sports arena.

But its fields are home to a football club that, for some new Canberrans, plays a much bigger role than sport does in most lives.

The Canberra Kangaroos was founded nine years ago by a group of Afghan refugees. It entered the annual refugee tournaments held around Australia.

But this year it’s gone mainstream. For the first time, the club is toughing it out in Canberra’s state league competitions.

Its secretary, Ali Ekhtyari, said that while the Afghan community began the club, it now had players from Pakistan, Brazil, South Sudan, Iraq and Iran.

“This club is based on inclusion, to prevent isolation that refugees and migrants often face,” he said.

“It’s really helpful for those migrants who don’t know what to do, how to come out of the isolation, from loneliness.

“This is a good place to be with each other.”

Pitch battles a relief compared with off-field stresses

The club began with Afghan players but is now open to all refugees.(Supplied)

Some of the club’s players face tough challenges away from football.

Goalkeeper Rohullah Hassani has a temporary visa and is fighting hard to bring his family to Australia.

“We have been separated from our family a long time, a decade now,” he said.

“It’s very hard. Every day it’s depressing and we are worried … back home, it’s not very safe, mentally we have lots of stress.

“We are just hoping for [the] new government to give us a chance to bring our family and start a life here.”

However, Mr Hassani said finding a welcoming community in Australia had softened his situation.

“I feel proud and I feel much better since I joined this club,” he said.

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