City News

Finding refuge in sporting glory

Aliir Aliir sits in the stands of the Sydney Cricket Ground, clad in the red and white of the Sydney Swans, and looks across to the posts where he dreams of scoring goals.

“I’ve been still playing reserves, [as] I’m still developing, hopefully my opportunity comes,” the 19-year-old Kenyan-born Sudanese refugee said.

Aliir will be the face of this year’s Refugee Breakfast 2014, to be held on World Refugee Day.

Every year on June 20, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recognises the millions of refugees fleeing persecution and danger around the world and honours their resilience.

Aliir will be joined by former Australian Test Cricket Captain Ian Chappell and Phil Kearns, former Wallabies Captain and the Australia for UNHCR Special Representative.

However, Aliir’s beginnings were far more modest.

“I spent my time in Kakuma Refugee Camp playing soccer . . . all I remember is playing sport, with my family,” he said.

“The war was still happening and my Mum wanted a better education for the family, so we came to Australia and it’s pretty good, down here.”

Aliir was eight-years-old when he arrived in Australia with his family. He had an uncle living in the country at the time, who helped him with the required paperwork to be registered as a refugee, but even then, Aliir was still moving from place to place.

“We lived in Sydney for a bit, then we went to Newcastle, then Queensland, Perth and now I’m back here.”

Aliir has lived in Sydney for about eight months after he was picked in the third selection round by the Sydney Swans as the overall number 44 pick.

At 194cm tall, the coaches see his height as a key asset for a centre right back position.

“I’ve only started playing the game when I was 16, so I haven’t played for as long as the other kids,” he said.

Nevertheless, his rise has been meteoric.

After stints with the Aspley Hornets, Queensland and the East Fremantle Colts, Western Australia, Aliir was selected for the Western Australian under-18 side for the 2013 National Carnival.

Being picked for the Australian Football League was a golden moment for the young man who saw his future in sport.

Now Aliir hopes his story at the refugee breakfast will reinforce this year’s theme of “Restoring Hope”.

“I guess as refugees we are here to find a better life. We haven’t done anything wrong. The only reason we are leaving the country is because of stuff going on back there.

“As a refugee, you feel as though you want to give back to the kids out there.”

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