Longwood has embraced a diverse range of nationalities this season with a host of players from across the world.DAMEN FRANCIS May 22, 2014 3:05am
A Moroccan, an Israeli and a Sudanese walk into a football club.
They learn new skills, make new friends and, after finding themselves as welcome as any new players, decide to stay.
Longwood is fast becoming one of the most culturally diverse football clubs in country Victoria, with a host of Indigenous Australian and Tiwi Islanders also pulling on the Redlegs jumper this season.
Walid Cheiri hails from Morocco, Mohamed Almohamdawy from Israel and Zac Tong from Sudan.
The trio debuted in Longwood’s Kyabram District Football Association under-18 clash with Avenel two weeks ago and coach Ricki Shiner said the recruits had fitted in well.
‘‘Their kicking is probably the biggest adjustment they’ve got to make, but they pick up the skills very quickly,’’ Shiner said.
‘‘All the kids have surprised me how quickly they’ve taken it on. In terms of understanding the rules of the game, they seem very keen and switched on.
‘‘Their English is quite good and you’ve got to be mindful of the different cultures and that stuff, but a lot of kids now are mingling with different ethnic groups more regularly than we probably did growing up.
‘‘They’re all very accepting of them and keen to help them out and for them to understand the game.’’
Longwood has not fielded an under-18 team in recent years and a discussion with senior coach Matthew Chilcott before the season led Shiner to approach the Ethnic Council of Shepparton.
The club met with members of multicultural communities and young senior players Blade Larkins and Clinton Tozer helped out at an AFL multicultural gala day AFL Goulburn Murray run.
Cheiri, Almohamdawy and Tong expressed an interest in giving the sport a try and Longwood was all too happy to accommodate.
‘‘There’s a lot of clubs that are struggling for numbers to actually get a side on the ground, so I’m rapt we’ve got an under-18 side up,’’ Shiner said.
‘‘I’m also pretty happy that we’ve got some new Australians involved and kids that actually weren’t playing football before or had walked away from football, so we’ve pretty much built a side from scratch without robbing any other clubs and we’re proud of that.
‘‘Hopefully you get the flow on effects where the kids filter though into your reserves and senior sides, which we’re already seeing, so it’s about making clubs sustainable.’’
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