They might have lost their opening Kanga Cup match 8-0 to Kiwi side Meadowbank United, but for the team manager and the eleven kids playing for the Koori Kangaroos, participation meant more to them than the result.
Canberra’s first indigenous junior football team, the Koori Kangaroos, made their tournament debut on the eastern lawn of Old Parliament House on Sunday afternoon (7 July) as a strong crowd cheered on.
With over 4,500 players at the annual week-long tournament, attending the competition means more to this team than the other 323 sides.
Capital Football approached Ngunnawal woman Selina Walker, asking whether she knew any indigenous players interested in the Kanga Cup and whether she would be team manager. Ms Walker said the reaction from the indigenous community was overwhelming.
“It meant a lot when Capital Football approached me because it was their own initiative,” she said. “The feedback from the local Indigenous community has been great, it is an awesome initiative and well done to Capital Football.
“This is a great step in the reconciliation journey. The fact that we are standing here on Ngunnawal land, my tribe’s land, means a lot to me. I am pretty proud.”
Coinciding with NAIDOC week this year, Kanga Cup is giving indigenous Australians another avenue to celebrate and raise awareness of their culture. A special smoking ceremony was also performed as the kids walked into the opening ceremony.
“To see an Indigenous team represented not just on a national level but an international level, we can bring that awareness and education to Australia and the world,” Ms Walker said.
“This is an awesome platform. Kids talk to kids, better than adults talk to each other, so it’s great to be part of it.”
As Capital Football CEO Phil Brown – whose nephew plays in the team – watched on from the sideline, the team struggled to get a shot on target, but the Kangaroo’s campaign isn’t about the scoreline.
Coached by Capital Football’s game development staff Kelly Stirton and Ivan Souto Diaz, the mixed side of 9 to 12-year-olds are using this week to raise a voice that works towards reconciliation.
“Coach Kelly has made very clear that it doesn’t matter how many balls go into the goals, or how many we miss. It is about having fun, being active and enjoying and embracing the Kanga Cup,” Ms Walker said with a smile.
“We will be back bigger and better next year. Sometimes it’s the first stone that is hardest to move.”