Transplant Australia FC Chairman Ante Kelic: “There is no shortage of people who need support”

In an event that has been a long time coming, Transplant Australia Football Club will hold the inaugural Transplant Football World Cup in Cervia, Italy on September 8-14, 2024.

Due to COVID-19 being a major roadblock, the tournament has not been able to lift off – however with the dedication and perseverance of Transplant Australia and the World Transplant Games Federation, it is now going to be a reality.

It is headed by Transplant Australia, which is a charity that supports transplant recipients and their families, while also lending support to people on the waiting list, donor families, living donors, healthcare professionals and everyone associated with organ and tissue donation.

Transplant Australia FC is one example of the many sports and activities on offer that encourage physical activity for an increased chance of survival in transplant recipients.

As the Chairman of Transplant Australia FC, Ante Kelic has gone through his own experience and is now the perfect role model for others in a similar position, while also managing the operations ahead of September’s tournament.

In this interview with Soccerscene, Kelic discusses his involvement with Transplant Australia, an update on the World Cup, building a community and looking ahead over the coming months.

Tell us about your background and why you are involved?

Ante Kelic: I started playing in junior competitions for St Albans Dinamo out in Melbourne’s west.

I grew up with the game very much part of my life, however around the age of 18 years I started having a few health issues and was diagnosed with a liver condition called primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).

There was not too much trouble apart from the initial onset symptoms and flare ups such as a headache and swelling and for the most part I did not feel the full effect of it for another 3-4 years.

In the year 2000, I also got diagnosed with Crohn’s disease which isn’t uncommon for people who suffer from PSC.

At that time, I broke  into the seniors for St Albans, but it all came to a halt when I required surgery for Crohn’s disease at the age of 20. From 80 kilograms being a fit and active player, my weight  dropped down to 54kg.

The recovery was slow and through all the medications and treatments, I was hoping to get back to playing Premier League senior football but the side effects such as weight gain as a result of  fluid retention  lead me to   player in the lower divisions.

At the age of 34 I was playing social soccer, however I was told during that time  I needed a transplant as cirrhosis was getting to a serious stage of liver failure.

It was in 2014 that I got put on the transplant list and needed to wait seven months before I was offered the lifesaving transplant. At the same time my wife was four months pregnant and thankfully my daughter Iva was born soon after without major hiccups.

How did you find out about Transplant Australia FC?

Ante Kelic: It was in 2018 that I found out about the team through the late Matty Hempstalk who established the team two years prior.

I was introduced to the team by participating in an exhibition match which was known as the Doujon Zammit Shield – this was in honour of Doujon who passed away, but his parents donated his organs to save multiple lives.

A few years later, Matt – along with the CEO of Transplant Australia – came up with the idea to create an inaugural World Cup for transplant recipients and I thought that I could give a helping hand as it was something that involved heaps of work to organise.

With Matt’s passing, coupled with the pandemic, it has taken us a bit of time to recover and get back on our feet but now it is something I will contribute towards.

You had an Expression of Interest period for participants, what are the numbers looking like?

Ante Kelic: We ran a large campaign for a couple months that saw around 50 applications from men and women all around Australia who want to join the club.

In addition, we are going to run a development camp in Sydney on March 16-17 to get people together and support each other based on their transplant journeys.

Our main purpose is to help people with ongoing health issues and encourage active participation.

The underlying reason why we are there is to create awareness and educate people on the life saving gift of organ donation and the donation sign up process.

On your role as Chairman, what are the main priorities?

Ante Kelic: There is no shortage of people who need support before and after transplant.

Peronsally I have had not only with liver transplant recipients, but also those undergoing cancer treatment and that shock of being unwell and going into hospital where your life changes from that point – that is where I am willing to offer support and advice drawn upon my health journey.

To have someone to talk to is super important and I have also reached out to people myself when there were instances I lost energy or motivation during the difficult times.

The wait time for transplants can be mentally challenging – I waited seven months but some other recipients in my support group had to wait for more than two years. If you throw in the fact that hospital call ups do not always guarantee a transplant due to an inadequate match occurring, it is not easy to comprehend – I know of someone that had received the news four times.

Unfortunately, you do not know how far you get through the waiting list in terms of pecking order, so this is a challenge that we offer support and advice for.

How is it juggling your responsibilities?

Ante Kelic: There are some challenges to fit it all in with a young family and running my own business, but we do have some staff at Transplant Australia who do an excellent job supporting the club.

Part of the reason that the development camp in Sydney is going ahead is down to the Transplant Australia team securing a grant to benefit recipients.

Particularly for us, one of the factors is the distance between team members, making it costly to hold events due to travel and accommodation costs.

There is representation Australia-wide, so we offer in some instances where possible to subsidise recipients for travel, accommodation and meals for them to be able to attend these camps and remain active

Even though recipients recover from transplants, they can still have ongoing issues with their health they need to manage which affects their work and earning capacity. As a club, and Translpant Australia, we want to build longevity and sustainability to support the recipients in every way we can.

A lot of recipients reach out stating they want to do something more regularly and having a club in local competitions would be a great milestone.

Our goal is to increase the participation numbers and generate awareness through the amazing stories shared about the life saving donations that people have received.

However, we cannot do that without government, community and corporate sponsorship support.

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Liam Watson is the Co-Founder & Publisher of Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy, industry matters and technology.

Brandon Borrello: Facing the challenges of professional football

2023 was shaping up to be one of Brandon Borrello’s most successful years until his whole world came tumbling down on November 25th when he was felled by a tackle from behind by Sydney FC hardman, Luke Brattan, in the Sydney derby.

Unbelievably, the misdemeanour by Brattan escaped any sanction from referee, Alex King, but left Borrello with a fractured foot which would exclude him from playing in the Asian Cup during January, 2024. It enforced a three-month layoff before he returned to the field with Western Sydney Wanderers.

Borrello had made several appearances for the Socceroos in 2023 and when he moved to the Wanderers in 2022/23 season after a five-year stint in Germany, his life in football had never looked brighter.

However, Borrello has not dwelled on the incident and approached his rehabilitation in a positive mindset while trying to regain the form which he exhibited before the foot injury.

Until Saturday’s derby with Sydney FC, Borrello was re-establishing his presence in the Wanderer’s frontline before he incurred a hamstring injury which saw him leave the field after 17 minutes with the prospect his season is finished.

Frustratingly for Borrello, he was sitting on the bench watching his team-mates concede defeat in the 97th minute after they missed a number of good chances on goal which should’ve paved the way for victory in the match.

However, after signing a three-year deal recently with the Wanderers, Borello can look forward to better times with the club.

In this interview with Roger Sleeman, Brandon Borello discusses his early days at Brisbane Roar, the German experience, the impact of his broken foot enforcing his omission from the Asian Cup and life at the Wanderers.

ROGER SLEEMAN

Can you relate your experience at Brisbane Roar and the main influences?

BRANDON BORRELLO

After the family moved to Brisbane in 2012, I attended the Queensland Academy of Sport and was coached and eventually drafted into the Roar National Youth League squad.

The following year, I was included in the first team squad under coach Mike Mulvey.

I was training with household names of the club including, Matt McKay, Matt Smith, Luke Devere and Thomas Broich.

Day in and day out I learned from these players and I was glad I hadn’t gone to Germany a year earlier.

Even as a senior player at the Wanderers, I have learned so much from seasoned campaigners – Ninkevic and Marcelo.

At the Roar, I was playing on the right while Broich operated from the left and I admired how he drifted with elegance like Ninkevic.

These players move so easily which is not common in our game and you pick up new tricks every day.

Their understanding of football and body movement left me with a lasting legacy.

R.S.

When you went to Germany in 2017 to play for Kaiserslautern, outline your initial experiences and what did you learn from the other clubs you played with in your five-year stay?

B.B.

You had to fight for your spot because you were taking somebody else’s food off the table so the other players weren’t your friends.  It was really cut-throat.

I had to improve my sharpness because when you lost the ball, you may not get it back until your opponents scored at the other end.

You have to take your chances which I worked hard on despite initially struggling, but in time I scored four goals and provided some assists.

I quickly realised you had to be on your toes all the time and you couldn’t afford to be lazy.

Critically, it was important to learn the language because I wasn’t South American or European. Being Australian, I wasn’t recognised so I had to communicate with my team-mates.

When I sustained a cruciate ligament rupture in my right knee in April 2018, I stayed in Germany to rehabilitate but at the end of the season, the club was relegated to the 3rd division.

At the other clubs Freiburg, Dusseldorf and Dresden, I experienced a multitude of situations which are well documented but most importantly I was living my dream playing professional football in one of the toughest environments in the world.

R.S.

What were the lessons you learned playing in Germany, particularly in improving your technique and your general approach to the game?

B.B.

If you’re fighting for a spot in the team, off the ball work is critical.

If you work early, you work less so there is the mental side of the game which has to be tuned to adopt these good habits.

Also, you need the consistency to take chances.

I worked constantly on a better first touch, dropping the shoulder before receiving the ball and improving body shape.

Borrello breaks clear of Newcastle’s Mark Natta.

R.S.

In your first season with the Wanderers in 2022/2023, you formed a great partnership with the Tunisian international, Amer Layouni.

Can you relate that experience?

B.B.

Although, he didn’t join the club till just after Christmas of 2023, Layouni was a pleasure to play with as he always knew where I would be making my runs and we formed a telepathic understanding.

In the first match he played against Adelaide United,  he scored a goal and set up mine.

He knew exactly where to be on the pitch and was a deadly finisher.

He was also a great character to have in the team but it’s hard to attract players like him from Europe due to the salary cap.

R.S.

You started the current season in a flurry before your injury against Sydney FC on November 25th.

How devastating was this for you and was Brattan lucky to get off scot free for the tackle?

B.B.

I heard the click immediately and it was a huge setback so early in the season.

However, to be out for three months with the fractured foot was not as bad as the ACL injury I experienced in Germany when I missed nine months playing.

I bore no remorse to Luke Brattan because I played with him at the Roar and he always played the way he trained.

He’s the sort of player you like to have in your team, not play against.

Brandon Borrello competes with Rhyan Grant in the Sydney Derby.

R.S.

How much did you miss playing in the Asian Cup?

B.B.

Obviously it was a huge disappointment because I’d played for the Socceroos in World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers, but not in the Final tournaments.

R.S.

People believed you were badly missed up front in the tournament due to your speed, ability to run across the lines, getting into good positions beyond defences and finishing prowess.

Your comment?

B.B.

I suppose I may have added some energy to the front third but Kasini Yengi and Mitch Duke did run their hearts out.

We had our chances against South Korea but it just didn’t happen for the team.

R.S.

How did you rate the overall performance of the squad in the tournament?

B.B.

The problem with these tournaments is the best available players are brought together but the cohesion required to succeed is often lacking because of the limited time the players have together.

Even European teams playing against Asian opponents in tournaments like this would find it hard because they fall down and bunker down in defence.

Borrello looks on for the Socceroos.

R.S.

How hard was it for you to settle back into the Wanderers squad after you returned from the injury to your foot?

B.B.

In the first three weeks, I was attempting to exert my energy with pressing and running  and had to take a few deep breaths through the game to regain my composure.

The other players were 100% match fit while I was only 95%  by this time but before the derby last Saturday, I was feeling totally confident about my general movement and fitness levels.

We had a thorough warmup before the start of the match and my hamstring injury was just one of those unfortunate events.

R.S.

A lack of consistency has been ever present in the Wanderer’s game during the last few matches, including the late losses to Brisbane Roar and the Sydney derby last weekend.

How can this be reversed?

B.B.

We need to win more personal duels to gain more possession and create more domination of games.

As the first line of defence, the strikers have to press hard on the opposing defence and as Mark Rudan has said, the team needs to follow game plans and not replicate mistakes.

FC Barcelona and EBC Financial Group confirm collaboration

FC Barcelona has broadened its presence in the foreign exchange industry by partnering with EBC Financial Group (EBC).

This collaboration spans 3.5 years establishing the financial institution as FC Barcelona’s Official Partner in Foreign Exchange. The partnership encompasses regions such as APAC, LATAM, the Middle East, and Africa.

This collaboration signifies a momentous achievement for EBC, as it aligns the brand with FC Barcelona’s esteemed legacy and worldwide influence. Through this exclusive arrangement, EBC gains the exceptional privilege to conduct specialized business operations within the foreign exchange sector.

The partnership encompasses various services such as foreign exchange transactions, trading, brokering (including CFDs), and advisory services. Additionally, it presents an unparalleled opportunity to strengthen FC Barcelona’s connection with its partners, supporters, and Culers in these regions, while advancing its global expansion strategy through strategic partnerships in diverse sectors.

Marketing Area Vice President at FC Barcelona, Juli Guiu, released a statement regarding this partnership.

“This partnership coincides with FC Barcelona’s global expansion plan in recent years, I’m sure that this will help the Club open up a wealth of opportunities in the financial sector through these 3.5 years of partnership with the well-renowned EBC Financial Group.

“With the untapped potentials we see in the Asia Pacific region, as well as the growing economies in South & Central America, Mexico, Africa, and Middle East, we’re excited to build more connections with brands, partners, supporters and Culers in these regions.”

APAC Director of Operations at EBC Financial Group, Samuel Hertz, also added a statement for this collaboration.

“Even though EBC is only four years old, we’ve only grown because we demand the best from ourselves and the industry. We’ve delved deep into FC Barcelona’s storied history, learning from their culture of mentorship where the experienced guide the new, and the new inspire the younger, creating a continuum of growth and excellence.

“This isn’t just a partnership; it’s a shared journey towards greatness, embodying a culture where success is not just about winning but about fostering values, nurturing talent, and contributing positively to society. We’re inspired by Barca’s way of doing things, their culture where veterans nurture newcomers, passing on wisdom and passion.”

Operating from strategically positioned offices in key financial hubs including London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney, the Cayman Islands, Singapore, Bangkok, Limassol, and beyond, EBC serves a varied clientele comprising retail, professional, and institutional investors across the globe.

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