Ramadan Cup competition unites Brisbane’s ‘football-loving’ community
Spectators at yesterday’s Ramadan Cup grand final had a saying: Every Somali is born with a soccer ball in their hands.
- The Somali Community Association of Queensland launched the Ramadan Cup competition in 2013
- Sport brings community together and diverts at-risk young men from turning to harmful paths, says SCAQ
- Brisbane City Council and the AFP Community Liaison Team support the competition
For the past four weeks, during the lunar month of Ramadan, 12 teams of young Somali men from Greater Brisbane have been playing each weekend at a park on the south side of Brisbane.
The tournament culminated in yesterday’s grand final, where Brisbane United narrowly beat Future Stars United in a thrilling confrontation.
But the 10-Year Ramadan Cup is no ordinary football tournament – during Ramadan, Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset, letting no food or water pass their lips, as a way of worship God.
To ensure the players have enough energy, the Ramadan Cup is played on a small pitch with only seven players per team, for 60 minutes, compared to the usual 90 minutes.
And the players weren’t kicking to win, but rather to connect with each other and their faith.
The Somali Community Association of Queensland (SCAQ) launched the competition in 2013.
SCAQ chairman Faysel Ahmed Selat said at the time that many young Somalis had recently arrived in Australia via third countries, having fled civil war in their own country.
“As a community, given that we grew up in different countries… it’s very important that we stick together,” he said.
The SCAQ has turned to sports to bring the community together and steer at-risk young men away from engaging in harmful paths.
“Young people in Somalia are passionate about football and we as a community know that they love football – and we use football as a tool to engage with them,” Mr Selat said.
“To be honest…the Ramadan Cup helps a lot of people, otherwise they might have used drugs and alcohol.”
Now supported by the Australian Federal Police Community Liaison Team, Mr Selat said the annual pageant attracts up to 300 people.
There’s no sledding from the sidelines here – spectators and players are on their best behavior, as they observe Ramadan.
Playing in the tournament gives Brisbane United striker Zaki Ahmed the strength to get through the month of fasting.
“It’s good to be surrounded by your own people, people who are fasting too,” he said.
Mr Ahmed said it was easy to get distracted and idle at home “but here everyone is calling you about what you are doing wrong, what you are doing well”.
“There’s no swearing here, there’s no fighting, there’s no toxic behavior or things that distract you [by ]…it’s a good way to have those positive people around you and make sure you have clear thoughts,” Mr Ahmed said.
Future Stars United centre-back and manager Mahad Mowlid Mussa says hunger and thirst have not deterred him from playing.
“Your body gets used to it, so it’s basically normal – normally we play better in Ramadan when we fast… because you’re empty, you feel completely light,” he said.
He said the best part of the tournament was seeing old friends who share a common experience with him.
“It keeps them out of a lot of trouble – they learn from the older ones, get together to talk to each other.
“It’s not just the football, it’s the coming together.”
AFP Community Liaison Team Senior Detective Shane Johnson and Detective Sergeant Le-Anne McKinnon provided the cup herself.
Detective Johnson said they hoped their involvement would help create a sense of belonging in Australia.
“Police – we traditionally approach work activities and investigations with a traditional policing mindset, but that goes back decades and what Australia looked like is very different today – and we need to approach things differently today to get a better result,” he said. .
“There are a lot of myths and barriers to be dispelled between the various communities and the police in general.”