Life without family can be a lonely place for new Australians.
That’s why Melbourne Victory Community Ambassador Raj Sharma is offering the Nepalese community a “home away from home” at the Yeti Football Club in Melbourne.
Raj moved to Australia from Nepal in 2004 with his wife and is the President at Yeti, which brings together Nepalese footballers from all corners of Melbourne.
International students living without support networks and thousands of kilometres from their families make up a large portion of the club.
Raj says the family-like bond at the club is invaluable.
“I cannot even begin to explain how important it is,” he said.
“The difference between someone with family here and someone who is brand new to the community with no connections or network can be the difference between real struggles and having a good time here in Australia.
“If someone is coming here brand new, they’re lost. Most people get a cultural shock and a loneliness being away from family.
“When they come join us, that loneliness is gone. When they play the game with us, they forget everything, the only thing you focus on is playing.
“From a mental health perspective, it’s beyond measurable.”
Aside from being a sporting passion and way to express themselves in their new surroundings, being part of the club sets up life opportunities.
“The club is a home away from home for our players,” Raj said.
“Young boys come here to join us and are embraced by our club and welcomed into our family. We treat them as our brothers.
“It’s a good opportunity for them to network because it helps them find jobs and accommodation all while continuing their passion of playing football.
“It’s one big family.”
The club’s tight bond was never more evident than in 2013 when one of their players suffered a brain injury and was in a coma for almost a week.
In an incredibly difficult circumstance on a foreign land, the young man wasn’t alone.
“Nobody expected him to recover,” Raj said.
“We all started visiting him all the time and the nurses and doctors were like, ‘is he some kind of rock star?’.
“There were that many people visiting him every day and he was all by himself in Australia as an international student.
“We raised 25,000 dollars for his treatment and got his mother and grandmother here to take care of him.
“He’s recovered and living a good life.”
Sharma is one of many community ambassadors who are connected with Melbourne Victory and work tirelessly behind the scenes to brighten the lives of Melburnians with a little help from the power of football.
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