The team too afraid to play
DAVID Nyuol Vincent has been called a “black monkey” or worse in every soccer game he has played in Melbourne over the past six years. “Each time you are called that you have to decide whether to react or walk away,” he said.
Mr Vincent said he was sick of being racially abused and it must be stopped.
Soccer is his passion, and it was what kept him going when he lived for 17 years in refugee camps. But this Sudanese community leader says he has lost heart and is not sure he wants to continue playing after two of his teammates were beaten unconscious in a brawl that erupted during a suburban soccer game on June 2.
Machiek Kot is still recovering from his injuries.
Acting team coach Kot Monoah said he and other members of the Sunshine Heights Western Tigers seniors team were also considering giving up. “We are demoralised and some are traumatised. We don’t feel safe.”
University student Machiek Kot said he no longer wanted to play after being beaten unconscious during the match last month. He is still recovering from his injuries.
Mr Vincent, the author of The Boy Who Wouldn’t Die, was not at the game and could barely believe what he was told: that his team was winning 2-0 against Tullamarine City at its home ground in Tullamarine when a fight broke out near the end. Many spectators in the 100-strong crowd joined in. Chairs from the sidelines were broken up and used as weapons.
Police were called and injured players from both teams were taken by ambulance to hospital.
Detective Kevin Burke, from Broadmeadows police station, is investigating the incident.
Sunshine Heights players attended a Football Federation Victoria appeals board hearing on Wednesday night seeking to have the penalties imposed against some team members at an earlier tribunal hearing on June 20 reduced.
Mr Monoah said yesterday that his team was subjected to racist taunts including “black monkeys” and “black c—s” during the game, and that he asked for the game to be halted in the first 10 minutes. “We feared for our lives,” Mr Monoah, a lawyer with Slater & Gordon, said.
The referee, Salih Al-Jelali, told The Age he did not hear any racist taunts. But he believed both teams should have received tougher penalties for their behaviour.
At the first hearing, some members of the Tullamarine team were suspended for four or five weeks, while a Sunshine Heights player was suspended for six months. Another was suspended for 18 months for threatening the referee.
The appeal panel adjourned the hearing on Wednesday night as no representative from Tullamarine City attended the hearing. The case will be heard on July 26, with representatives from Tullamarine City ordered to attend. Sunshine Heights will be represented by Queen’s counsel Emrys Nekvapil.
Chris Hatzoglou, president of the Sunshine Heights team, said the mostly Greek members of his cricket club asked the Sudanese soccer team to join their club last year and had not regretted that decision. But he said he was concerned by the racist abuse the Sudanese players had to endure. “We are hoping that by speaking out, there might be some awareness and some changes,” he said.
Maki Issa, the head of four North Lions teams in Footscray, said he had no doubt the Sudanese players faced racist comments at every game.
He said his team, which comprises African, Asian and Arabic players, often had to endure racist sledging.
“We get it on the field and we are not really looked after by officials,” he said.
Berhan Ahmed, head of the African Think Tank at Melbourne University, said he had repeatedly asked Football Federation Victoria to do more to halt racist sledging of Africans by players and supporters.
But federation chief executive Mark Rendell said the organisation had many programs and structures in place to help players. He urged any player subjected to racist abuse or violence to immediately report it.
The June 20 tribunal declared a 0-0 result for the June 2 game as it was not completed. Penalties included both teams playing the rest of the season for no points. They must also nominate two players to attend a respect and responsibility course.
Daniel Haile-Michael, a director of the play Black Face White Mask, said racism in sport was a serious problem for African youth. He said he had given up playing AFL because of racist comments and violence.