Ange Postecoglou praises football’s role in indigenous empowerment and it’s indigenous stars.


As the celebration of indigenous participation in football continues during Indigenous Football Week, Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou, fresh off steering the Socceroos to a 2-0 win over the United Arab Emirates in Sydney, has praised the work of the John Moriarty Foundation (JMF) and the work of indigenous stars such as Jade North, Kyah Simon and Lydia Williams as drivers of social change and for creating pathways for more indigenous participation in football.

In an interview with the PFA, Postecoglou highlighted football’s history of social inclusion and recognition of minorities and how the opportunities afforded by the game can create a bond between all members of society.

“No other code, when you look at multicultural objectives, has played a massive role in bringing communities together,” said Postecoglou. “People have found a common bond in football and opportunities have grown from that.

“There is a love for the game [in indigenous communities] and sports are just a great way to create more opportunities.

“That’s just the key to life, to provide opportunities particularly to young people and sports has a great way of doing that. Football is a sport that understands, it crosses all boundaries, it crosses all cultures and it’s a great vehicle to initiate that [greater recognition of aboriginals in the community]”

Indigenous Football Week counts a number of former and current international representatives amongst its ambassadors and last year the Socceroos donated $90,000 to John Moriarty Football (JMF) to enable five young indigenous players to commence scholarships in Sydney. Postecglou emphasised the role that both the Socceroos and Matildas can play as ambassadors for football in indigenous communities.

“The Socceroos and Matildas – who have both had representatives from the indigenous community – have worked very hard to make sure they do their bit. We had some of the boys and girls from John Moriarty’s foundation come in to watch training and Timmy (Tim Cahill) was the first one over there and you can just see the kids smile when someone like him engages with them.

“The kids came over [in 2014 eight young members of JMF travelled to Brazil to watch the Socceroos train prior to their world cup match against Chile] and it was humbling in many respects. Even in a World Cup you’re over their your separated from home and in many respects the real world, you’re living in a bit of a bubble and it just brought home a little bit closer to the players.

“Seeing the kids and seeing how excited they were about being at the World Cup and even just coming into our camp I think gave everyone a lift and reminded you why you’re representing your country and why you want to strive for success.”

Postecoglou in particular also singled out the work of indigenous Socceroos and Matildas as ambassadors for the game and their particular importance in the quest to bring football to indigenous Australians.

“Those guys themselves do a fantastic job themselves. Every time I’ve heard Kyah [Simon] or Lydia [Williams] talk they’re proud of it and they talk about it constantly and I think that’s the most important and genuine message.

“I think that the more we get people like that into profile positions and profile areas where their stories can be heard I think has more of an impact. It’s a lot more important and a lot more genuine when people like Jade [North], and Lydia and Kyah speak and we need to give them platforms so they can. And when they do it certainly raises the platform of where they’ve come from and their own communities.”

Indigenous Football Week is a joint project of the PFA, FFA and JMF and Posteclou also took the time to praise John Moriarty and the work that his foundation does in promoting football to an indigenous community that has, bucking nationwide figures, much higher rates of AFL and NRL participation than football.

“John does some fantastic work, he’s equally passionate about football and indigenous communities and it’s a great combination.

“As a code that has fought for recognition we’re at a point where more boys and girls are playing our game than any other and you’d like to think that could extend to indigenous communities once the popularity of the sport rises. There’s no doubt we’d get more players out of there and for growth to continue to happen in this country, for us to keep producing Socceroos and Matildas we need to invest in those communities.”

Asked about what would be the biggest driver of growth in indigenous participation, Postecoglou was very clear.

“I think we need to look at doing more meaningful things over time and part of that is getting into their communities. Getting their heroes into their communities, that’s something where other sports have an advantage and that’s something we need to look to follow as well.”

“A lot of it’s just opportunity, the ability of a young boy or girl to dream about playing for their national team and realizing that the opportunity for that is there is massive and that’s where our challenge lives,”