16 February 2012

Kids playing soccerIts known worldwide as “the beautiful game” and it is about to make its mark in a very special way on young people in five high schools across the northern and western suburbs and regional South Australia.

The University of South Australia will launch a new football-focussed program Football United UniSA (FUn-UniSA) this Saturday (February 18) designed to promote education and aspiration through sport. The launch will be held at Uley Oval, Elizabeth Downs at 5 pm and will include a range of family-focussed activities and a community barbecue.

Modelled on the successful University of NSW program, Football United®, the project works through sport to build community, offer opportunity and develop skills and at the same time harness and encourage educational aspirations.

Project officer from UniSA’s Division of Health Sciences, Dr Edoardo Rosso says FUn-UniSA offers the perfect framework for community engagement.

“We all know sport has the capacity to bring communities together and create vibrant social networks – but sometimes, especially in marginalised, socially isolated and economically disadvantaged communities, there are just not the resources to sustain sports,” Dr Rosso says.

“This program is not about setting up competitive football operations – it is about engaging with football as a platform for skills development, health and fitness, community networking and strengthening high school and university student engagement in schools and communities.”

The first five sites for the rollout of FUn-UniSA are Playford, Para Hills High School, Roma Mitchell Secondary College, Underdale High School and Mount Gambier.

Dr Rosso says the University is keen to involve volunteers in a variety of roles and will be ensuring there are opportunities for students at university to take on a range of roles in support of the initiative.

“The project offers a perfect framework for students to gain invaluable experience and UniSA is looking for students in a range of disciplines from human movement and journalism to social work and business to take part.

“Some of what uni students will undertake with us will act as part of their industry placement or experiential learning.”

He says in many instances the communities in which the program operates have high numbers of refugees from a range of countries across Africa and the Middle East and also has high migrant populations from a range of football playing nations.

“The project uses the football focus as a uniting starting point for development and its relevance in these communities makes it the perfect springboard for deeper engagement,” Dr Rosso says.

“I think it was Pele, a legend of the game who said ‘Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying…and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do’ and these are the elements we want to bring together in FUn-UniSA.”

The FUn-UniSA project has strong support from the Adelaide United Football Club through its specially appointed Ambassador Iain Ramsay, the Office of Sport and Recreation, the Australian Sports Commission, the City of Playford, the OPAL Program, the City of Port Adelaide and Enfieldthe Martyn Crook Foundation and through the participating high schools, the Education Department of South Australia.

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