The Socceroos first Indigenous Australian goalscorer, Travis Dodd, on the power of football to change lives and why Indigenous Football Week matters.

Forty six years on from when John Moriarty became the first Indigenous Australian to be called up for the Socceroos, Travis Dodd created history becoming the first Indigenous Australian to score for the National Team when he was on target in a AFC Cup win over Kuwait.

Unaware of this historic moment when the ball hit the back of the net, the former Adelaide United captain was simply overjoyed to have lived his childhood dream.

“It wasn’t until after the game when I got interviewed that I realised that I was the first Indigenous Australian to score for the Socceroos,” said Dodd. “At that moment when I scored I wasn’t thinking too much about being an Indigenous Australian scoring for the Socceroos I was just thinking about being able to represent my country and score on debut. Afterwards when I found out that I was the first it brings a sense of pride. It is one of those special moments that you are never going to forget.”

Growing up in Adelaide the forward was a keen participant in all sports. The local basketball team the 36ers were his team. It wasn’t until later on that football started to take hold of him.

“I just loved playing sport and being with my mates. When I became a teenager I started getting more into football, watching World Cups and the Champions Leagues and that kind of stuff, before that I was more into basketball.”

For Dodd initiatives such as Indigenous Football Week are an important way of inspiring the next generation of Indigenous Australian players by showing them they can have a career as a footballer.

“Indigenous Football Week provides exposure and awareness, and gives kids that may not have an opportunity otherwise to get themselves into the game. For me it is all about a connection and being able to get out there and promote the game. When you look at the AFL and NRL they have been able to build up things over time. Us, as a code, need to start somewhere and we need to provide opportunities for kids. It is not just about football it is about education and life skills as well and giving them an opportunity they may not get others. Our game is unique it gives them the chance to travel the world and play in many different countries.

“When I was still playing we were doing Indigenous Football Festivals and I went out to regional areas and we came across kids who had never played the game before and straight away they could just pick it up. To think if we could put those kids in a program where they are playing regularly and getting good quality coaching then there is no doubt we would unearth some very special talents.”

Providing opportunities for Indigenous kids in remote areas is something that John Moriarty through his foundation has committed much of his life to. JMF brings children together through sport, promoting good health and wellbeing in some of the country’s most remote regions and helps young players reach their true potential. Dodd said this work should be supported by the whole football community.

“If you look at the career of John and what he has done for the game and the work he has put into JMF it is unbelievable. I’m sure at points it would have been easier for him to walk away, but the perseverance and the desire to make it happen is brilliant it will hopefully grow and grow. The work of JMF needs to expand to all over the country and the football community needs to help them do this.”