Football’s power to unite people and create opportunities was on full display as the Interfaith Through Sport “Unity Team” took on Richmond’s Next Generation Academy on Sunday, March 26.
Selected after the second annual Jolson/Houli Unity Cup, the “Unity Team” was made up of 11 players from the Islamic community and 11 from the Jewish community.
The unique match was the culmination of a range of connection opportunities between the talented Islamic and Jewish footballers that were picked in the final squad, with their enhanced connection as a team on display both on and off the field.
Throughout preparations for the game, the playing group focused on highlighting the similarities between each other and their communities as opposed to their differences.
The youth footballers worked closely with Richmond’s Head of Leadership Development, Shane McCurry, to establish these bonds. McCurry has previously played a pivotal role in forming the leadership model and behaviours on display within the Tigers’ premiership-winning AFL teams.
Chemistry created within the group was especially poignant as the team trained and were presented with their first Unity jumpers at the MCG as part of the final training session before the game.
The Unity Team jumper design reflects peace and togetherness. It includes an abstract dove wing on the front and back to align with peace. A fusion of a ‘U’ and ‘T’ for Unity Team forms an arrow representing the communities moving forward together.
Their opponents, Richmond NGA, were made up of Indigenous and multicultural youth from the Bendigo Pioneers and Murray Bushrangers regions.
Unity Team ran out strong winners on the day, with Nicholas Pike and Brodie Mond, the standout performers, while South Bendigo product Pawu Kirirua best served the NGA Tigers.
Richmond Academies Manager Trent Mosbey said that both teams played with tremendous effort and intensity.
“The skill level execution and athleticism on show was impressive. There are bright football futures ahead for all the players involved today,” he added.
“Our boys will take great learnings from the game, and we look forward to working with the players in the near future to improve their games.”
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