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On Friday, April 8 we were involved in bringing coaches from Real Madrid to the Sunshine Coast, here in Australia, to coach some kids from troubled backgrounds. For free.
It was a great gesture from the Real Madrid Foundation Clinics Australia group, who were already running some fee-based youth coaching clinics in the country.
Some 60 boys and girls from around 7 up to about 16, were bussed up from Brisbane. Most of these were invited by Welcome to Australia, a local NGO working on settling refugees in Australia. A smaller number came from Harmony Place, a not for profit which assists refugee families dealing with trauma and mental health issues.
We also invited some "local" players to come along and join in the afternoon friendlies, which we arranged for the afternoon, after the Real Madrid sessions in the morning.
For us, it was a chance to test our wings and to see how we fly as an organisation. From our point of view we felt we made some mistakes and not everything went exactly to plan. But, these are opportunities to learn.
Overall, we deemed the day a success, both in terms of delivery and in terms of lessons gained.
Our aims on the day, in delivery terms, were to bring children from a range of backgrounds and ages together and to find ways to allow football to provide connections between them.
This central aim was clearly a success.
The clinics, which were only for younger children, proved to be hugely successful in bringing the kids a sense of awareness, skill, and physical and mental aptitude in relation to football.
Most importantly, (and the Real Madrid coaches played a large part in this), the kids had great fun, were exposed to positive adult role models and were opened up to life affirming - as opposed to life threatening - personal challenges.
They were allowed to be children. That means everything to kids who've already seen too much.
The afternoon games were broken into two groups - those aged under 12 and those over 12. Girls and boys were mixed in both groups.
While many of the older players in particular belonged to teams, we were able to split up some of the players so they had to team up with others not from their usual teams. While the games were competitive, the levels of interaction, support and co-operation were generally high.
In pure football terms, the standard was not bad too.
While not wanting to focus on the distinction, some of the girls in the older age group games showed great skill and tenacity and offered examples in how to be both competitive and fair.
Occasionally, players - boys - had to be reminded that these were friendly games, and to curb their need-to-win urges. But this was managed relatively easy and the hot spots (which were minor) that flared in the games were calmed quickly and without carry on.
Such actions are crucial as developing the means of working through tensions and difficulties sustainably is a vital part of what we aim to do.
The younger children's games were conducted in a more playful spirit, perhaps not surprisingly, and the feedback we received from them - in terms of fun and interactivity - was positive.
This was a relatively small program, but an important one for us as we grow and learn.
We thank all those involved for helping us put it together. Special call out to Shereen Allen, Tash Lawton and Ric Jay from The Kick Project team.
We thank our partners - noted above - and event supporters, such as The Australian Federal Police, Noosa Lions FC and Big Film Company for their invaluable assistance.
In conclusion, we feel our belief in football to act as a focal point for children in need of some care and help was affirmed. We move forward with confidence and with knowledge gained.
We are hoping to gain more data-based feedback from participants in the coming weeks, which we will share on this site.
Above is a video made by film-maker and board member Tasha Lawton, which captures the spirit and action of the day.