- Published on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 12:32
While Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar are struggling with crisis in their homeland, those taking refuge in our shores have escaped the torment through football.
Sports, as a great and powerful tool that unites, has led to the formation of Rohingya Football Club (RFC) in 2015.
The Rohingya national team consists of 18-30 year olds from the minority group who fled their country and have found their freedom in playing football as well as competing against various local teams.
"We can openly play football here. In Myanmar we are not even allowed to go out of our houses," Mohammed Farouk who runs RFC, told Reuters, adding now they have a platform to show the world what they are made of.
But their dreams expand way beyond that – to play in the World Cup.
“The purpose is to build the community. Being a refugee, they don’t have any hope, light or happiness.
“We hope it will give some hope and motivation to the youngsters so they are not diverted into crime or other unhealthy activities,” said Muhammad Noor, RFC chairman to The Star.
But first, they aim to participate in the Confederation of Independent Football Association (ConIFA) for a chance to play in the tournament.
The Kuala Lumpur-based team had a recent friendly match between Mayu FC at the Kampung Pandan Sports Complex, which they won 4-1 as 100 other refugees and locals gathered on the sidelines, cheering on the teams.
Most of the players have their daytime jobs, while some are still studying, and they usually juggle with trainings in the evening.
“It is not easy [with our work commitments], but all of us try our best to make it to every training session or match because we are very passionate about football and want to show that the Rohingyas are good at it,” 51-year-old head coach Dilder Ahmad, told FourFourTwo.
The team, according to him, spends a minimum of RM1,500 every month, enough to cover players’ expenses.
“I am disappointed that I cannot provide everything to my players because they have always given their best for the club,” he said, however he is grateful for the funding that they have received to ease their financial burden.
So far, the RFC have received sponsorship of RM55,000 through The Kick Project, in partnership with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Australian High Commission in KL, to aid the team with their kit, coaching, equipment as well as ferry them to matches.
Its founder, Australian native, James Rose, told NST, “For me, sport crosses so many barriers that may exist between people. It surmounts language, culture, religious and political differences.
“If you drop a soccer ball among a group of kids ANYWHERE, they all know just what to do with it. Fun is an international language.”