I wonder what those who participated in SBS documentary “Go Back To Where You Came From” would make of Teeboy Kamara? The youngest player in Australia’s under-17 World Cup squad arrived as a refugee from Liberia, and his story is an inspiration to those searching for a better life in Australia.
Kamara came off the bench to good effect in Australia’s opening group stage win over Cote D’Ivoire, although the exciting attacker was an unused substitute in the Joey’s subsequent defeat to Brazil.
Now 15, Kamara’s biological father was killed shortly before his son’s birth.
The fledgling footballer then left a stepfather behind in war-torn Liberia to flee with his mother and two siblings, arriving in Australia at age six via refugee camps in Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Kamara credits his stepfather – now Liberia’s goalkeeping coach – with introducing him to the sport at a young age, although judging by his pace and fleet of foot, it’s a good thing no one thought to stick him in goal.
The youngster is one of a growing number of refugees starting to make a name for themselves through football in Australia, and hopefully Kamara’s example will inspire many more to test themselves in the round-ball game.
Kamara follows in the footsteps of Congo-born striker Million Butshiire in achieving selection in the Australian under-17 side, although Butshiire’s tale is perhaps a warning of the difficulties of making the step up to professional football, having recently left Perth Glory’s National Youth League set-up to join State League side Cockburn City.
Nevertheless, playing football at any level is surely an achievement for those who have fled warfare and bloodshed in their former homelands, although no doubt Butshiire is also keen to try and replicate the success of current Chengdu Blades midfielder Jonas Salley in forging a serviceable career out of the game.
Of course, football has long been Australia’s most inclusive participation sport, not discriminating against height or weight or gender, turning a blind eye to class and social strata in favour of welcoming with open arms anyone eager and willing to play the game.
It’s an advantage Football Federation Australia have over counterparts from other sports, with football likewise a native game to many youngsters arriving from far-flung corners of the globe.
The Socceroos have had countless players from a staggering array of backgrounds pull on the famous green-and-gold jersey, one of my favourites of whom was legendary Adelaide City sweeper Milan Ivanovic.
No doubt Kamara hopes to have a similar impact to one of Adelaide’s favourite adopted sons, although rumours suggest the youngster will join Brisbane Roar’s youth team once his time with the Australian Institute of Sport comes to an end.
Whatever happens to the Joeys in Mexico, Teeboy Kamara will surely emerge as one of the success stories of the tournament.
And his story is one which should inspire not only refugees arriving in Australia, but also those who doubt the process of accepting others into a country largely untouched by the horrors and bloodshed of twentieth century warfare.