By Nick Blewett
SANFL recently held its first Nations Cup Festival – a celebration of cultures connected through the game of Aussie Rules footy.
Held in the South Parklands (Minno Wirra), home of the Adelaide Lutheran Sports Club, over 250 people attended the event, where six teams representing nations from around the world competed in modified-rules matches based on the AFL 9s format.
Teams Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Lebanon, Vietnam and Asia each provided a colourful and vibrant performance reflective of their nation’s rich culture before play. On the field, each team donned a custom-designed guernsey.
“For some players, it was the first time they had played Australian rules football,” said SANFL Multicultural Programs Coordinator Matthew Diglio.
SANFL is bringing football to people of all backgrounds, thanks to our multicultural programs.
The teams for this year’s Nations Cup Festival were filled by adults, with SANFL hoping the initiative will encourage many more families and children of all cultures to feel comfortable and safe in coming along to the next Auskick clinic, community football club or kick-and-catch on weekends at a Statewide Super League game.
“Targeting adult participants, many of the players were parents, providing an opportunity to educate them about the game,” Matthew said.
“Through SANFL-organised training and education sessions, we taught communities the skills and rules of Australian football.
“These participants could be our next football volunteers and coaches. And when a student now gives their parent a footy participation form, parents will understand the sport and encourage their child to play.
Winners on the football field that day were Pakistan, Vietnam and Lebanon, whilst Vietnam’s entertaining VCES Dance Crew were acknowledged as an outstanding cultural performance with its lively blend of traditional and contemporary Vietnamese dance.
“The day displayed football, cultural performances, food, fun, friendship, camaraderie and peace with Australian Rules football being the effective vehicle,” Matthew said.
“The event gave cultural groups the confidence to take part in a game that has been for a long time foreign.”
The event also saw the launch of SANFL’s first multicultural football which were used in the football games on the day.
Designed by Melbourne-based Iranian artist Mohsen Meysami, the football reflects an uplifting theme of liberty.
Persian calligraphy in the shape of bird spreading its wings is representative of the migration story of Arman Abrahimzadeh OAM, the 2016 Young Australian of the Year (South Australia), which he spoke of passionately on the day.
“I’m hoping that the design we’ve come up with on this ball speaks to many cultures, many families, and many individuals and it represents their stories too,” Arman said.
Arman Abrahimzadeh will be among guest speakers at SANFL’s annual Iftar Dinner at Adelaide Oval this Thursday (May 16).
Iftar is the special meal that breaks the fast during Ramadan, and for the fourth consecutive year is being held by SANFL to celebrate diversity in Australian Rules Football and highlight the importance of this tradition to Muslim culture in South Australia.