Mayamantharra theme drives Indigenous Football Week 2022

John Moriarty Football

In the seventh year of John Moriarty Football’s (JMF) delivery of its Indigenous Football Week initiative, the transformative organisation has embraced a theme of ‘Mayamantharra’ to honour the community support that has allowed the JMF program to run consistently.

Translating to ‘collaboration’ in the Yanyuwa language – which is spoken by families in Borroloola, Northern Territory, John Moriarty’s birthplace – Mayamantharra is intimately tied into the Moriarty Foundation’s delivery of the JMF program in remote and regional Indigenous communities around Australia.

Having grown from 120 children in Borroloola to now delivering to 2,000+ Indigenous children in 19 communities and 23 public schools across three states, the JMF program has both nurtured budding Indigenous footballers and assisted in areas of education, health, mental health and community engagement.

Soccerscene sat down with JMF Program Director Jamie Morriss and Wailwan woman and JMF Dubbo Community Coach Jorja Fuller, to discuss the significance of and opportunities that arise from Indigenous Football Week.

Jamie Morriss

The theme for this year’s edition of Indigenous Football Week is “Mayamantharra: Partnerships for Success”. What is the intention behind this theme?

Jamie Morriss: Mayamantharra translates to ‘collaboration’ in the Yanyuwa language, spoken by families in Borroloola, NT, John Moriarty’s birthplace and where John Moriarty Football (JMF) was established in 2012.

The continued delivery of JMF is made possible by the partnerships we have at the community, national and international level.

JMF is embedded in the local communities we deliver in. As such, we work closely with local community groups, councils, schools, businesses and local health organisations. For instance, throughout the year our JMF Select team in Borroloola, NT is invited to play in Katherine, the closest town with an organised football club. Katherine is a 7-hour drive and we have to stay overnight when the team goes to play. These trips are made possible by the support of organisations like MacArthur River Mine Community Benefits Trust, Roper River Council as well as local businesses.

Earlier this year, Indigenous Football Australia (IFA), which oversees the delivery and expansion of JMF, formed a partnership with adidas. The partnership will see adidas sponsor JMF scholarships and provide high quality football equipment, including footballs, boots, and bags; as well as custom uniforms.

When we talk about success, we don’t just talk about the successful delivery of JMF, it also refers to the successful transformation outcomes JMF has. JMF is achieving proven progress in 13 of the 17 Closing the Gap targets and we have a track record of improving school attendance and achieving resilient, healthier outcomes for some of Australia’s most remote Indigenous communities.

What initiatives will the Australian Professional be delivering and promoting as a part of Indigenous Football Week? 

Jamie Morriss: We are very proud to have A-Leagues as a partner for IFW22. IFW22 will be the centerpiece of the Round 4 of the Isuzu UTE A-League Men 2022/23 season. Each match will include a Welcome to Country ceremony, a celebration of Indigenous culture and the opportunity for fans to join our story and donate to further the work of JMF. Expect to see a lot of Indigenous Football Week artwork at the games, plus lots of coverage about our story across A-Leagues’ channels, plus on Channel 10.

A-Leagues and Paramount+ (Channel 10) are also taking part in our IFW22 Charity Football Tournament on 25 October at Allianz Stadium in Sydney. They are part of 10 teams that are competing and raising money for JMF.

From starting with 120 children in Borroloola, to now delivering the John Moriarty Football program to over 2,000 Indigenous children across three states, why has JMF been so successful?

Jamie Morriss: We succeed because we are Indigenous-founded, Indigenous-delivered, embedded, holistic and authentic. JMF is co-designed and community-led. In each of the communities we deliver in we work closely with a Community Advisory Group made up of community Stakeholders, Elders, and Traditional Custodians, to guide and advocate for JMF.

We are deeply embedded in the communities we deliver in and have a permanent presence, we are not a fly-in, fly-out program with a sporadic presence. Our coaches come from the local community, they often know the children and families we deliver to, they understand the challenges, they are trusted.

Jorja Fuller: JMF has only been running in Dubbo for three years, but in that time it has become a trusted community organisation. We often participate in community events to help out because we are embedded in the community and highly respected by children and families.

Gala Day JMF

How important is the continued embracing of initiatives supporting Indigenous communities to the growth of Indigenous football?

Jamie Morriss: There is enormous football talent in the communities we deliver to and for the most part, football as a sport is not well represented in these areas. The predominant sport tends to be AFL or rugby. Programs like JMF provide pathways for Indigenous players, through our grassroots delivery, Scholarship program and the coaching career opportunities we provide in local communities. These can be pathways to a better future through health and education, or through the game itself.

Right now, we have 14 players in our Scholarships program. Some based in their local community getting support with mentoring, advanced coaching, school tutoring, equipment, club fees and more. A number are studying in top sport high schools in Sydney. They are a talented bunch and we are confident we have some future stars of the game in the group.

Jorja Fuller: In the Dubbo region we’ve seen a growth in the uptake of football thanks to JMF. A lot of this is because of our school programs, the kids love it and so do the teachers. After a JMF session they focus more on their school work and they are more likely to come to school on the days JMF is running. We even see small clubs are having more junior registrations.

Jamie Morriss: For around 20 years the Peak Hill local football club had no junior teams due to a lack of participation. However, after JMF began delivering our in-school program to the local public school, interest began increasing and the club entered a junior team for the first time in 20 years.

What are the next steps for John Moriarty Football in the coming years?

Jamie Morriss: Under the guidance of our Indigenous Football Australia Council we’d definitely like to grow our program to reach more communities and Indigenous children. We’d also like to guide more aspiring young Indigenous footballers into pathways to advanced and elite football, like our Inaugural JMF Scholarship holder Marra women Shadeene Evans, former Young Matilda who will be playing in the upcoming A-Leagues Women season for Sydney FC.

We get asked all the time by schools and communities around Australia to bring JMF to their children as they see the success we are having at building health, wellbeing and resilience, as well as promoting education. We’d love to be able to answer the call, it really comes down to funding which is why Indigenous Football Week is so important. This year we are asking football fans to make donations to support our work.

John Moriarty

Nick Galatas on addressing the link between National Second Tier with promotion and relegation

The National Second Tier (NST) competition is building towards its expected start date of March/April 2025, but its final structure has not been settled.

While eight teams were initially announced with representation from Victoria and New South Wales, we are still yet to find out who will make up the rest of the ‘national’ component.

We will at least have an update on this around June 2024, as the Request for Proposal (RFP), Assessment & Review and Completion Phases are all completed.

Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) Chairman Nick Galatas has been a vocal advocate and involved in establishing the NST from its inception, but despite the previously announced foundation clubs, there is still work to do to ensure the NST starts in the best possible shape.

At this stage, eight foundation clubs have been confirmed, but there is a push to increase the number to at least 12.

Despite 26 clubs advancing to the RFP phase, only 8 foundation clubs proved to be a major drop off from what appeared a healthy pool of teams to choose from.

“There were 26 clubs that looked to be in a great position to be selected to start in the new NST,” Galatas told Soccerscene.

“From those, it would be expected to get 12 for a kick-off in 2024 but didn’t pan out that way.”

A lack of structure around how promotion and relegation will work with the NPL does leave some uncertainty for the clubs left out of the NST. Many clubs remain eager to be part of the expected four additional teams to be added for the competition’s commencement early in 2025.

For Football Australia, consistency will need to be applied across the board about how clubs go up and down between the NST and NPL when promotion and relegation commences. Football Queensland has made rules that a Queensland coming into the NST will revert to the competition it was in before it joined the NST. That is inconsistent with the approach of other member federations.

For example, with Preston Lions FC competing in Victoria Premier League 1 in 2024 prior to the commencement of NST, if they get relegated is it one step below to NPL Victoria or the original league they are in now?

Galatas outlined how everyone must be on the same page to form a unified system.

“As a scenario, we can think ahead to, say, 2027 and it’s the third year of competition, which is may also have expanded by then and include Queensland teams,” he said.

“For example, if, say, Preston Lions from Victoria and Sunshine Coast Fire FC from Queensland are relegation candidates in that season, it’s untenable that those teams would face different predicaments if relegated with Preston to the NPL and Sunshine Coast to oblivion.

“Hypothetically if we talk about relegation, everyone agrees that a Victorian-based club would be relegated to NPL Victoria even if originally from a lower league.

“However, when you compare it to a Queensland club, getting relegated means that they go into oblivion, which doesn’t add up. It’s fundamental and accepted practice that a relegated team goes down one rung and it has the chance to come up again.

“Football Australia needs to discuss a relegation scenario with all of the member federations and ensure there is a consistent approach. It will run the competition and must ensure the member federations work together with it and the clubs to achieve this outcome.”

Galatas outlined what he hopes to see out of the upcoming application process, moving one step closer to an Australia-wide competition.

“Instead of the eight confirmed teams we see now, it should be 12 teams from hopefully at least four states or territories to achieve the best competition,” he said.

“I would have liked to have seen a 2024 start date with 12 teams and have all the big players ready to go, but instead we’ve had a delay. But so long as we use the additional time to start strongly, the extra year to wait is not important in the overall picture.

“Having Queensland plus at least one of South Australia, Tasmania and Canberra to include four states from the get-go is the ideal platform to build on.

“Then we can look at Western Australia and the remaining areas as we build – we are just starting. We can grow the competition without rushing into it too much from a logistical point of view.”

The story of Kamal Ibrahim: An inspiration to young migrants

The founder of One Ball, Kamal Ibrahim, understands that football is a beacon of light for him and the people that experience adversity and hardship in their countries.

Along with his family, Ibrahim migrated from Ethiopia in 2003 for a new life in Australia at the age of 12 to flee the civil war.

By not understanding a word of English along with the difficulties of settling into the cultural ways of life in Australia, that’s when he turned his passion for football as a form of expressing himself and communicating with his new community.

His football career began for his local team, Port Melbourne Soccer Club, the noble act from the NPL club to pay for his membership, providing him with his uniform and most significantly making him feel welcome instantly the moment that he had arrived was an admirable act of generosity.

Looking back on his playing career, Ibrahim talked about the life skills football gave him, not only on the pitch but also off it.

“Through football I learnt skills that helped me on and off the field. I looked forward to my games each week, my team was my ‘family’, I had a sense of acceptance and a way of communicating without having to speak, I learnt how to work as a team, improve myself as an individual, I was supported in a fun and safe environment.

“Football has given me opportunities that I never expected. Football gave me the opportunity to represent Australia and Victoria on a national level and I was given the opportunity to travel the world. It gave me that sense of encouragement to do more with my life and that with hard work anything can be achieved.”

He has gone on to make appearances for Melbourne Heart (now known as Melbourne City) in 2010-2012 and representing the youth team of Australia, but his career was at an all-time high when playing for Port Melbourne Sharks, which is where he won the 2015 NPL’s best and fairest award.

Now Ibrahim has decided to show his admiration for the sport, by starting a program designed for children and adolescences between the ages of 5-17 year olds.

The program is open to all people, especially those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) nationalities from all over Melbourne to play football in a social and friendly environment, no matter their religion, culture or gender.

The mission of this program is to encourage children to be fit and active, as well as supporting their physical and psychological health and well-being, One Ball also aims to guide and empower young individuals to develop personal qualities such as cooperation, self-control, respect and integrity by playing football with others along with the mentoring they receive from their coaches.

Ibrahim explains why he started One Ball.

“I started One Ball trying to not only help the best players, but the overall community. Kids who have never played soccer before, kids who have the passion but they can’t play for a soccer club because they will be told they aren’t good forward or who aren’t good enough to play for an NPL club or a community club, so One Ball was established for that reason,” he said.

“As human beings when we realise belong in the community, we feel a part of the society, then we can achieve things. Every kid who comes to our program gets a uniform just like they are part of their soccer club, they feel like they can belong at that club.”

The PFA’s Footballers Trust supports One Ball and other similar organisations, giving an opportunity for players to give back to their communities in a positive and impactful way.

It was established by former footballer Mark Milligan prior to the 2019 Asian Cup, ever since then it has grown remarkably to the extent where they have partnered with over 10 various player-driven charity initiatives.

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