Iraq News Now

Soccer-loving brothers embrace weekend sport after escape from Iraq

Soccerloving brothers embrace weekend sport after escape from Iraq
Soccer-loving brothers embrace weekend sport after escape from Iraq

2023-04-10 00:00:00 - Source: Iraq News

Jumping in the car and heading to the local sports club for a match is a weekend tradition most Australian families and kids take for granted.

But that is not the case for brothers Saman, Sipan and Rizgar Almuhama.

The brothers were born in the Sinjar district of north-eastern Iraq, close to the Syrian border.

They are Yazidis — an ethnic minority group that was brutally persecuted by the Islamic State.

Saman helps his mates out by translating advice from coaching staff.()

"Soccer in Iraq was so much different from here," 15-year-old Saman said.

"There were no fields like [here in Australia], it was just playing in the streets — it was different.

"At some places we had goalposts, but not all the places.

"We made goalposts with our shoes or sneakers."

There were often disputes over whether the ball had made it through the goals.

"We just played paper, scissors, rock or something," Sipan, 13, said.

"In Iraq we played in the dirt and on the streets, but here we play in nice fields."

Sipan says he loves playing soccer on the fields in Toowoomba.()

Greener pastures

Four and a half years ago the boys and their family moved to Toowoomba in southern Queensland.

The brothers soon joined Multicultural Australia's Connecting Through Sport program — a four-week program aimed at helping kids transition into playing for a local club.

Now they play in their age groups for the University of Southern Queensland Football Club (USQ FC).

"It's amazing to play for USQ, I think it's a great club," Sipan said.

Sipan, Saman and Rizgar Almuhamed (left to right) moved to Australia from Iraq four and a half years ago.()

All three said they loved playing football because it gave them the opportunity to have fun with their friends.

They all cheer for Spanish club Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo is their favourite player.

Youngest brother Rizgar plays for the South West Queensland Thunder.()

Rizgar, 10, did not play football on the streets of Iraq growing up, but he has clear memories of watching his brothers play.

He now plays at a district level for the South West Queensland Thunder.

"It's one of the best clubs in Queensland," he said.

"Most of our family plays soccer and we're all great."

Alicia Fitzpatrick says the boys have been an invaluable addition to USQ FC.()

'Bridges the gap'

According to the 2021 census, Toowoomba is home to the largest Yazidi population in Australia, and their Kurdish dialect is the city's second most spoken language after English.

USQ FC secretary Alicia Fitzpatrick said Saman helped translate for the club's other Yazidi players.

"He bridges the gap that we have here regarding families that come here and can't speak English," she said.

"Between myself, Saman and some of the other boys, we are able to make them feel at home quickly.

"We have the dads and the mums coming in, and their brothers, and everyone's wanting to play even just a game a pool [at the club house] or run around and just hang out.

"It's a real family feel here.

"I think without Saman and the boys, it just wouldn't be the same — we really just adore them."

The brothers are regularly seen on pitches in Toowoomba.()

Thousands involved

Multicultural Australia's Connecting Through Sport coordinator Sam Escobar said participants in the program ranged from child refugees to migrant women and international students.

"It exists to be their first point of entry into a community and then we sort of facilitate them from a four-week program into transitioning into a proper team," he said.

"It's just such an important tool to get to know the local culture, the people."

Mr Escobar said the program ran throughout south-east Queensland from as far west as Toowoomba down to the Gold Coast and up to Caboolture.

"We work with AFL Queensland, Football Queensland, Netball Queensland, and RYE Sport, who do tennis," he said.

"For a lot of [participants] it's the first time they've come across a lot of these sports.

"We did a program in Brisbane with a local school, and it was the first time they came across netball.

"We've successfully engaged over 6,000 participants in our two years to participate in a four week program, and then we transition about 20 per cent of them into a proper team."

Saman dreams of becoming a professional footballer.()

Looking ahead

For Saman, playing for the club has presented him the opportunity to not only make new friends, but hone his skills, which he hopes will help him realise his dream of being a professional footballer.

"It's an amazing sport, everyone loves it around the world," Saman said.

"I enjoy playing it as well.

"It brings people together, it makes friends.

"I will try to be a soccer player as much as I can.

"And if not, I'll try to be a police or doctor, something like that."

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