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Game Over: Why Craig Foster's refugee campaign matters

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Roar Guru
9th March, 2020
18

The #Game Over, movement which has been lead by former Socceroo Craig Foster, looks to help refugees stuck in Port Moresby and Nauru and to resettle elsewhere.

Foster has used the power of sport to create a humanitarian campaign which looks to uphold the human rights of refugees who’ve been waiting years for their freedom.

Foster experienced the hardship and powerful stories of the refugees stuck at Port Moresby and Papua New Guinea when he travelled there in October 2019.

What struck Foster was the desperate help that many of them needed. “They’ve lost friends , family, and are tied from hanging on. They desperately need our help,” with many left without hope and left destitute physically and emotionally.

The Australian Government’s lack of compassion in regards to refugees seeking asylum has been highlighted through Australia’s refugee policy emerging not in response to the number of asylum seeker arrivals but rather as a political appeal to fear and segregation in order to scapegoat the other.

Former prime minister John Howard’s famous quote during his 2001 election campaign launch speech in regards to refugees and migration, “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come,” has been similarly echoed by the latest Scott Morrison government which has looked to crack down on who comes into Australia and capping refugee migrants to 18,750 per year.

Craig Foster and Les Murray

Craig Foster and the late Les Murray (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

Australia’s government regularly claims Australia is one of the most generous worldwide in regards to refugee intake with in fact Australia sitting 50th per capita in terms of hosting refugees and 88th relative to national Gross Domestic Product.

This is what Foster is attempting to change in creating a groundswell of support through the, ‘Game Over,’ campaign which has already collected 30,000 signatures and has encouraged community clubs everywhere to get on board.

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One of these clubs is Albion Park FC who on the 14th of March will play in the FFA Cup for all those without freedom and under the #GameOver banner by having a name of a refugee on each of the 11 playing shirts.

Foster has reiterated the importance of sport and the major factor it can play in providing support and changing the situation for refugees in Port Moresby and Nauru. Many of the individuals that Foster has been in contact with and met have highlighted the importance sport plays in their lives.

Football is one of these sports which has helped many of the refugees survive with a group of guys organising their own competition within the detention centre to help them escape their inhuman situation. “Football is built on the back of migrants and refugees and we can’t turn our back on those who are part of our family, however difficult it might be.”

Samad was one of the many individuals that Foster met. Samad is a passionate Pakistani cricketer who used to bowl at his friend at 2 or 3am when the guards were asleep. Samad though has been affected deeply by his surroundings and sadly like many in detention has tried to take his life twice with the scars on his arm serving as a reminder.

This sense of hopelessness is reinforced through the incidents of self-harm and suicide approaching 100 since the Morrison government was elected in the Nauru detention centre, with many examples kept hidden because people not wanting to bring shame to their families.

Australian players after their loss to Iran in 1997

Craig Foster in his playing days. (Photo by Matthew Ashton/EMPICS via Getty Images)

Foster has used his public profile and privileged position to try and turn the situation around for these refugees which have been left to fight for their own lives while governments use them to benefit their own political careers.

Foster has been able to harness his profile to bring on board other high profile members of the Australian community including Jimmy Barnes, Sally McManus and Craig Moore.

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This though is only the beginning with 231 refugees still in PNG and 237 in Nauru who need help to find resettlement.

The #GameOver campaign has created the conversation which was needed using sport to breakdown the political jargon which many politicians use when faced with this issue.

Foster may be the face of #GameOver but he has stated it is important for all Australians to get involved to push for real change and to highlight the shameful treatment the Australian government has displayed to people who are in desperate need.

“We’re all responsible for shaping the Australia we wish to live in, and the way we treat others.”