By PFA Chief Executive John Didulica.

My now late grandfather came to Australia from Europe, by boat, at the conclusion of World War II.

At risk of arrest, he used an alias. He would use the alias for the best part of a decade before returning to his original birth name. Through these early years, he would settle in Geelong, meet his wife (and my grandmother) and share the arrival of four children.

In parallel, he also decided to start a soccer club. He may have loved the game, but what he loved more was community. Connections. Building something that transcended his own life.

He would spend his weekends recruiting. In the early 1950s, recruiting didn’t mean standing in the outer of a windswept local reserve. It meant driving five hours in a minibus from the industrial skyscape surrounding Corio Bay to the town of Bonegilla, located on the Victoria-NSW border. To Australians, Bonegilla was a migrant resettlement camp for post-World War II refugees. For my grandfather, it was recruiting heaven.

He would arrive looking for players. What he would find were men desperate for a better life. Whilst he looked for a striker, all he saw was a hunger to start anew in Australia. He tells the story of a 5 foot 5 barber who convinced him he was an old-school target man.

Creating a host of manufactured jobs, he would load up the minibus with a motley crew of Croats, Magyars and Russians. Whether they could play was irrelevant. He had given them a chance at a new life. They would stay at my grandparents’ house until my grandfather could find them a job. Or score a hat-trick, in which case they were guaranteed a foreman role at Ford.

One of the players who would one day play for that club would meet my grandfather’s second daughter, Mary. They would marry and have three children, of which I am the oldest.

In this spirit, the PFA is proud to number 22 different nationalities among its active membership.

Now, more than ever, modern Australian football should embrace the role it has played in building a model for multiculturalism and wear it as a badge of honour. We should feel enormous pride in the diversity of our national teams and the faces on our terraces. That names like Tarek Elrich, Dylan McGowan, Michael Marrone and Bruce Kamau can all wear the same colours, be part of the same passing move, share a dressing room and lift the same trophy.

My story, and that of my family, is not unique. Every member of the PFA, every fan of the sport, will have a connection or a touchpoint where being connected to the global game has enriched, or in my case, created, their life.

Whilst we love what happens on the pitch, it’s what football has done off the pitch that keeps us coming back.