Australia, you play football or you leave – Liberation

2022 World Cup in Qatarcase

Argentina’s opponents in the round of 16, the “Socceroos” have long relied on a solid group of players with an immigrant background, while the government’s draconian policy on the subject has been debated in the country and beyond.

They haven’t left the hen’s head since 2006. Australia’s players play their first round of 16 World Cup this Saturday (8 pm), against Lionel Messi’s Argentina. The culmination of sixteen long years of trying to reach the knockout stage, and three failures. A resounding return to business, while the training of young talents does not move, despite the democratization of sport in the country in recent years. Also despite a certain popularity rating, which can be seen through the famous videos of the festivities in the middle of the night in Melbourne, when the Socceroos qualified against Denmark. Australia owes his return primarily to a group of young players with an immigrant background, who make up a large part of the current squad. Of the 26 players on the trip to Doha, more than half come from communities from all walks of life: Serbia, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Bosnia, New Zealand, Malta, Ireland, Nigeria, Lebanon, Afghanistan…

Failing to become the country’s king sport, mostly still relegated behind rugby league and XV, cricket or Australian football, football remains very popular among immigrant populations. The reason is historical: for a long time, football has been a vector of social integration for people arriving on Australian soil. The history of the national team can almost be seen as a reflection of the country’s immigration. The elite workforce of the 1960s-1970s included first-generation migrants from Europe (England, Scotland, Germany, Greece, Hungary and the former Yugoslavia). During the 1974 World Cup, a minority of players on the match sheets (almost one third) were born on the island continent.

This 2022 vintage has perhaps never been so rich in culture. Some young hopefuls come from the latest waves of immigration, mainly from Africa – four players were born on the continent. Apart from defensive midfielder Keanu Baccus who was born in Durban (South Africa), three of them are refugees belonging to the South Sudanese community.

Peru’s play-off qualifier scorer, winger Awer Mabil was born in 1995 in the UN-controlled Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya after his family fled the war in Sudan. He lived there for his first 10 years, playing with rolled up socks as a ball, until his family was granted asylum in Australia. ‚ÄúDuring the journey my mother and her parents made to reach the camp, many people diedAwer Mabil recalled to Guardian. They were caught by the rebels who tried to escape. How they escaped, we talked all night. It’s like something out of a movie, but it’s something they actually experienced.”continues one who will discover the Premier League with a Newcastle tunic in January.

Defender Thomas Deng’s parents also fled the conflict in Sudan. He too was born in Kenya in 1997, before moving to the mainland island in 2003. As for Garang Kuol, who became Australia’s youngest player to step on the grass in a World Cup against France, he was born in 2004 in a refugee camp in Egypt, of South Sudanese parents who fled Darfur, before the family moved to Australia permanently when Kuol was just six years old.

Draconian migration policy

Now, that Australia is staking its football fortunes on these young people whose tortuous path seems completely out of step with the country’s immigration policy, which has been severely tightened over the past two decades. While people like Awer Mabil have entered the country through official refugee application programs, they are far from the majority. Many applications have been blocked by significant barriers since the 1990s.

Further irony: Australia is the first World Cup participant to denounce the plight of migrant workers in Qatar, in a video where some of its executives show their support. At the same time, the government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has come under repeated criticism for its migration policy, which is considered harsh and discriminatory. The imbroglio surrounding the case of Novak Djokovic at the beginning of January 2022, who had to wait in a detention center before knowing if he could participate in the Australian Open, made it possible to highlight the precarious conditions of those who are waiting. of Australian territory. Immigration detention centers – particularly the one on the island of Nauru – are regularly accused of human rights violations.

The High Commissioner for Refugees has expressed himself several times “worried” through these accusations, emphasizing observation “gradual deterioration” the situation of refugees and asylum seekers on the island of Nauru during regular visits since 2012. Australia has until January 2023 to fulfill the obligations set by the UN in terms of accepting refugees. There are no penalties for missing that deadline, but the country may be placed on a list of non-compliant countries that raise significant human rights concerns. To be tarnished, even in Qatar.

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