Football giving a ‘sense of identity’ in Melbourne community

Football’s impact knows no boundaries.

Teresa De Fazio, who comes from an Italian background, has worked with Melbourne Victory’s community department for years and witnessed the power of football in society first-hand.

Teresa works with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in their Australian settlement processes and uses Melbourne Victory as a platform for inclusion.

By involving individuals in the Melbourne football family, it gives them a space where they can express themselves and find common ground.

“My work has opened my eyes to how integral football is for so many different reasons that have nothing to do with the ball,” she says.

“Football has been instrumental in getting people involved in the community by playing at a local team or being a supporter of the A-League.

“I’ve brought refugee groups, asylum seekers and international students to games and they’ve loved it. It kickstarted their sense of identity with the community and the Club. It gives them something in common and you always end up talking to the people around you, so you end up with new friends.

“It often is a catalyst for many positive community interactions. You watch their faces light up and all of a sudden, they just relax and be a part of it all instead of sitting with a label on them. They don’t have labels at the football, they’re a part of the fans and the atmosphere which is just electric – that’s what I love about the game.

“These people are still coming to Victory games and wearing navy blue.”

Teresa has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for her community work and is the Editor-in-Chief of Italian publication, Segmento Magazine.

But it’s football which brings out her passion.

“I grew up with it and have always enjoyed the game immensely,” she says.

“I’ve loved watching the game grow in Australia. I cannot believe how much it’s grown from watching it at crazy hours of the morning to something that is now part of pub conversation or Monday morning work cooler station.

“It’s a generational thing that’s passed on to my son who plays and loves the game. We’ve never had a moment where football isn’t part of our life somehow.

“We used to hide the fact we watched the game but it’s changed to the point now where we can come out and proudly say we follow the sport.”

Victory celebrated their annual U-NITE Multicultural Round on Tuesday night against Sydney FC.

A strong crowd at AAMI Park, many there through the amazing work of Teresa, witnessed a thrilling 2-2 draw.