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KUALA LUMPUR, 15 April 2017:
Everyone who loves playing football dreams of representing his country in the FIFA World Cup, the most prestigious football tournament for nations around the world.
However, those who are stateless – like the Rohingya – can only hope to lift the CONIFA World Cup, a football tournament for nations or minorities that are not eligible to play under FIFA.
In this regard, the Rohingya Football Club – a team comprising Rohingya refugees in Malaysia – got the boost to compete in the CONIFA World Cup when they received a one-off RM50,000 sporting grant by the Australian High Commission in Malaysia recently.
Donning new jerseys, which they also received as part of the grant under Australia’s Direct Aid Programme, the team can heave a sigh of relief as it also cover expenses for transportation, ground fees and equipment.
As the initial start-up support, the Australian government will provide the Rohingya FC a team bus and a clubhouse and will bear the expense for a stadium for the club for one year.
“We have received the greenlight from CONIFA. So what we need now is to focus on training. We hope that the Malaysian government through the Youth and Sports Ministry can help to provide training ground for us as the cost to rent a field is expensive,” said Rohingya FC chairman, Muhammad Noor, when met after the new outfit presentation ceremony here.
He revealed that to organise a match, the team would require around RM600 and half of that amount would be used to rent a field.
The initial idea to form the team came in 2014 to build a better community through sports and form a ‘national team’ for the Rohingyas.
“We want to have a Rohingya community that is away not involved in crime, and better integrate with the Malaysian community,” he said, adding the 25-squad member comprises those aged 18 to 25 selected from different parts of Malaysia and Arakan in Myanmar.”
Besides playing at the CONIFA, Muhammad said the team hopes to one day play against any Myanmar team or even the Myanmar national team as a way to start a “good friendship” with them.
Rohingya, one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, have been living for generations in Myanmar but not recognised as citizens of the country.
In Malaysia, there are some 133,856 registered refugees and asylum-seekers from Myanmar, including some 56,135 Rohingyas.
Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia, Rod Smith, when met after the new team jerseys presentation, said he hopes the support would empower youngsters and help to bring the communities together.
Smith said that the High Commission also looked forward to empower the Rohingya women and girls through future engagement with the community, as “they are the most vulnerable group.”
Australian non-governmental organisation The Kick Project, which helped to oversee the sponsorship programme, hopes to help the group to be self-sustained in the long run.
“We (The Kick Project) are looking for more funds but we don’t want them to be dependent on it. So we are looking at them to self generate income through the development of social enterprise,” said James Rose, its founder and chief executive officer.
The Kick Project is a Queensland based NGO with a mission to change lives through sport, help young people and communities build resilience, prosperity and peace.