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City Hub

Football legend unites sports players for Covid-19 aid

Football legend Craig Foster is recruiting sports players to help Covid-19 relief in the #PlayForLives campaign. Photo: Alec Smart

By ALEC SMART

Craig Foster, TV presenter and chief football analyst at SBS for The World Game, has recruited fellow sports talents and supporters via the #PlayForLives campaign to assist in relief efforts to help the elderly and disadvantaged whilst the Covid-19 restrictions are in place.

What began as a way of motivating his teammates in Waverley Old Boys Over 35s soccer club to divert their energies into charity work while the football season is on hold, has now spiralled into a national campaign.

Before he became a leading soccer specialist, Foster enjoyed a distinguished career as an international-level soccer player, including four years in the Socceroos Australian national team, and three years in the UK Premier League at Portsmouth and Crystal Palace.

Foster, who is also a human rights ambassador for Amnesty International and a refugee advocate told City Hub: “The campaign is about bringing social services and NGOs [non-governmental organisations] together with all the major sports organisations so we leave no one without.”

Foster himself has been assisting food relief efforts by teaming up with Addison Road Community Centre (Addi Rd) to help pack emergency food hampers in Marrickville, joined by Foodbank NSW & ACT. On March 30 two former Sydney Swans AFL players, Kieran Jack and Nick Smith, accompanied him at Addi Rd, and federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese also dropped in.

Albanese later posted on Twitter: “Addi_road is the heart and soul of the inner west. They’re supporting people through this crisis and we need to support them in return. A massive shout out to Craig Foster, Kieran Jack and Nick Smith from Sydney Swans, and all the volunteers here doing their bit. #PlayForLives”

Kieran Jack then posted on Twitter: “Met some incredible people today at Addiroad who are still supporting those in our community that need it most – even in these tough times. We helped pack over 300 boxes of essential items that will go to the homeless, disabled and elderly. #PlayForLives getting sporting clubs involved to help community spirits! Great to have Albo drop in for a yarn too.”

Mark Mordue, Addi Rd Media Coordinator, told City Hub: “We set up a production line in the Addison Road community hall where volunteers have been filling the boxes with an assortment of foodstuffs. The hampers contain pasta, noodles, sauces – nutritious food that will last a week or more, what you’d purchase in a typical food shop.”

Play For Lives
On March 25 Craig Foster and Aussie Rules football star Adam Goodes launched the campaign #PlayForLives to encourage all sporting teams in suspension, due to coronavirus restrictions, to volunteer to help the disadvantaged and elderly. This included players and clubs at all levels, from professional athletes to regional amateurs.

In a series of Twitter posts over the next few days, Foster said: “Sport’s role now is not to play for points, but lives We can no longer play on-field & are putting ourselves at the service of essential services. Football clubs are volunteering for community organisations & charities including Adam & I..

“Do not be mistaken, people are in desperate need and in increasing numbers, the most acute need Australia has faced for decades. Loss of jobs, homeless increasing, refugees, sick, elderly..

“Sport, you’ve never been more important than now. We need a sporting coalition for humanity Find a local charity, give $, volunteer. Just repurpose your training & playing time..

“We have the infrastructure and millions-strong community club network to help. Let’s get it activated for good. Australia needs 50,000+ volunteers to keep people fed, driven to hospital..

“There’s a whole section of vulnerable people in Australian society who are invisible. We walk past them, they’re under bridges, out of sight, we don’t see them in the daily news. And they’re kept going by wonderful organisations at national, and community level.”

Foster is also working with the Australian Football League (AFL), National Rugby League (NRL), Rugby Australia, Netball Australia and the Football Federation of Australia to draw together players and supporters for what is effectively a Call to Arms. Through Foster’s initiative, FFA partnered with Red Cross to use the collective power of the soccer-playing community to benefit those in need.

The FFA released a statement: “As the largest club-based participation sport in the country with a participation base of approximately 1.96 million participants, FFA recognise that football has an important civic duty towards the collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“FFA is looking at innovative ways to use its platforms for the benefit of the wider community during these difficult times, and will commit its profile and connect its network, who reflect the diversity of our communities, to aid Red Cross in its efforts to respond to the effects of COVID-19 on community health and wellbeing.”