06 Jun, 2011 Last updated: 30 Nov, 2014

United Through Football, a statewide VicHealth and Football Federation of Victoria initiative to get more new arrivals involved in community football, has been launched.

Supporters, family and friends of Melbourne’s Horn of Africa community soaked up the world game atmosphere on June 5, during the United Through Football launch at the Heidelberg Stars Soccer Club in Ivanhoe.

United Through Football aims to promote diversity and social connection through football. The launch centred on an all age’s football competition, barbeque, and Melbourne Heart football clinic.

To date, Football Federation Victoria (FFV) has invested over $110,000 into United Through Football and as a result assisted 40 community clubs and over 3,000 newly arrived people. Currently the total number of women participating in United Through Football is approximately 35 per cent.

Clubs with large numbers of players also supported by United Through Football include the Brimbank based Sunshine Heights Western Tigers FC and the Footscray based Melbourne Lions.

Beneficiaries of the program are predominately from Horn of Africa countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. Other beneficiaries include people from Iraq, Afghanistan and Burma.

Melbourne Heart FC player and United Through Football Ambassador, Kamal Ibrahim was born in Ethiopia and migrated to Victoria with his mother, three brothers and two sisters in 2003 to escape civil war. He said that everyone who had gathered at the launch today witnessed the true power of football as a community sport.

“Today shows that football, as the world game, really is used by newly arrived and culturally diverse communities to connect with their new home - Australia and local community,” Mr Ibrahim said.

“Football is a very powerful language and it’s the game that unites us all around the world.”

United Through Football has been made possible thanks to the support of VicHealth, a long term partner of FFV.

VicHealth’s Acting CEO Associate Professor John Fitzgerald said: “Physical activity can prevent heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis, some cancers and obesity and provides protection from common mental health problems anxiety and depression.

"As well guarding against chronic illness, physical activity also strengthens relationships and contributes to healthy communities. This funding for United Through Football will provide opportunities for new arrivals from the Horn of Africa to get together and get active through safe and welcoming clubs.”

The United Through Football launch was also attended by State Member for Ivanhoe, Anthony Carbines MP, Banyule City Council Councillor Craig Langdon, Cameron McLeod from VicHealth and FFV CEO, Mark Rendell.

After making an opening address FFV President, Nick Monteleone added that today was a real celebration of community football.

“This is a fantastic day for everyone involved in the United Through Football program. Football provides genuine access to all members of the community and it welcomes people of all backgrounds, ages, genders and abilities,” Mr Monteleone said.

United Through Football ‘legends’ Melbourne Heart CEO, Scott Munn, SEN’s Francis Leach, Soccer International editor Engel Schmidl, Professional Footballers Association executive Will Hastie and local football writer David Manuca joined the launch for a five-a-side scratch match against a relaxed Heidelberg Stars team.

After a tight game the legends prevailed with a 4-3 win.