Rockville Rovers celebrated World Refugee Day on Sunday with a bumper schedule of six senior matches, showcasing the full diversity of Toowoomba’s most multicultural football club.
“We have six senior teams at Rockville, and there would be 50 to 60 players that are refugees or newly-arrived migrants,” said club president and Premier Men’s coach, Ramiz Hadzic.
Rockville, located in the city’s northwest, may be economically disadvantaged but its football club is rich in diversity.
Since the Toowoomba Regional Council became a “Refugee Welcome Zone” in 2013, Rockville Rovers has become the beating heart of the new, multicultural Toowoomba.
The Premier Men’s team can trace their roots to Brazil, Bosnia, Congo, England, Finland, Iraq, Uzbekistan and the Solomon Islands. The U17 boys team consists almost entirely of Yazidi refugees from northern Iraq.
According to Hadzic, 32, it all began in 2016, when a couple of young African refugees approached him wanting to play football.
“That was how it started, and from there we really got the ball rolling and now we have more than 80 refugees and migrants from over 25 nationalities playing at our club,” said Hadzic, who is of Bosnian heritage.
“I grew up in Australia and I was born here, but obviously I have parents from overseas and have a bit of a different name. Football was my gateway to fit in.
“Toowoomba is very much a placement area for a lot of new migrants, so when we started to rebuild our senior ranks after a few up-and-down years, we knew our options had to be open.
“Toowoomba is a big area, but there are a lot of clubs in the city, so we had to have a point of difference to attract people to our club.”
Under Hadzic’s guidance, Rovers have raised funds for players who can’t afford to pay registration, assisted those who are learning to speak English and consulted them about dietary requirements for the club canteen.
“As a committee, we said we would learn and educate ourselves in the different cultures of our players. We want to learn from them,” said Hadzic.
“There’s been a lot of work behind the scenes at our club. We employed a full-time volunteer to fill out all the documents for players and chase down their Medicare cards.
“Football is the world game, but not everyone is comfortable to just sign up, pay and play, so we’re happy to give them a helping hand to get them started.”
As coach of the Premier Men’s side, Hadzic has enjoyed working with a group of players from Europe, South America, Africa, the Pacific Islands and the Middle East.
“It’s a cliché, but football is a language. We have our own systems and things in place here at Rockville, but we’re open to new talents and styles of play that can help our club,” he said.
This year, Rockville Rovers also partnered with Football Queensland and Multicultural Australia to deliver the Connecting Through Sport program for migrants and refugees (pictured above).
The four-week program, held in May, was “fantastic”, said Hadzic.
“We had done many, many programs to entice migrants to our club already, but this was our first official Connecting Through Sport program.
“We have so much interest already from people who have done the program. We’ve placed some in our teams where they could fit, but there’s so many more that we’ve sent to other clubs as well.
“It’s not just about growing our club, it’s about growing the community.”
To find out more about the Connecting Through Sport program, click here.
Football For All, For Life shines a light on the inspiring characters that make up the FQ community.