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Indigenous Soccer Players Call for Increased Funding in Women’s World Cup Legacy Plan

As Australia co-hosts the Women’s World Cup with New Zealand, current and former international soccer players from Australia’s Indigenous community are raising concerns about the lack of funding dedicated to First Nations football in the ‘Legacy ’23’ plan, valued at A$291 million ($196.98 million), aimed at growing the sport in the country.

In a joint letter addressed to Football Australia and FIFA, these athletes expressed their disappointment at the absence of substantial funding to boost Indigenous participation in the sport, despite the widespread use of Indigenous culture, symbolism, ceremonies, and installations throughout the tournament, underscoring the vital role of Indigenous culture in football.

The letter stated, “Not a single dollar from the legacy program has been committed to organizations that are Indigenous-led, managed, and have long carried the burden for First Nations in the Australian game,” describing the symbolism as empty without genuine support for the Indigenous community and their programs.

In response, Football Australia pointed to several programs targeting the Indigenous community, including the A$10 million New South Wales legacy program, which includes a specific First Nations element. They clarified that they considered Indigenous football programs an integral part of their commitment and refuted claims of a lack of funding for grassroots Indigenous football.

FIFA also emphasized its commitment to meaningful engagement with First Nations and Maori communities during the tournament. They highlighted various initiatives, including binational signage at all FIFA events, the use of traditional place names for host cities and training sites, the display of First Nations flags in stadiums, a tournament-specific First Nations and Maori cultural panel, and the integration of cultural protocols into various ceremonies and VIP welcomes.

In practical terms, FIFA emphasized the inclusion of First Nations and Maori business supplier networks to expand and diversify sustainable procurement models, such as gifting, catering, furniture, creative projects, and biodiversity projects.

Australia’s Indigenous peoples have a history spanning tens of thousands of years but have faced centuries of discrimination and neglect since British colonization in 1788. Indigenous rights are currently a prominent issue in Australia, with a forthcoming referendum to decide whether to recognize these rights in the country’s constitution for the first time.

The signatories of the letter include Jada Whyman, Gema Simon, and Travis Dodd, all current and former members of the men’s and women’s national soccer teams. The Moriarty Foundation, founded by John Moriarty, the first Indigenous footballer to represent Australia at soccer, organized the letter. Moriarty emphasized the additional challenges that Indigenous players, especially those in remote and regional communities, face, including financial disadvantage, high unemployment, and housing challenges.

During the World Cup, the Moriarty Foundation has launched a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe to raise funds for various needs, from boots to scholarships, for Indigenous boys and girls, acknowledging the disparities that Indigenous soccer players still endure today.

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Source: https://www.voanews.com/a/australian-indigenous-players-hit-out-at-empty-symbolism-at-world-cup/7195519.html

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