When Zakarya Shojaie was released from immigration detention in 2012, he went straight to Dandenong.
“I had a friend in the detention centre, he said he heard about Afghanis, they live in Dandenong in ,” Shojaie said.
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The 29-year-old Hazara man found a community full of other refugees from , most of them young, and many without any family or support networks.
So he turned to the world game, the sport he had played as a teenager before terror attacks made his hometown unsafe, and started a football club.
“I saw many young refugees, teenagers, from Afghanistan,” he told Guardian Australia. “After school they are walking around Dandenong Plaza, Dandenong train station … they didn’t have anywhere to go, no family.
“I thought: if they live like this it’s very dangerous for them, they may get into alcohol or drugs, they won’t have a good life. I felt that it was my responsibility, I live in this wonderful community, and I said I have to do something.”
Shojaie founded the Afghan Victory Football Club and invited the young people he saw hanging around Dandenong streets.
At their first training session they had 25 players. Four years later, they have 50 members, enough to field an Under-17s boys’ team, Under-19s girls’ team, and Under-25 mens’ team in the .
Shojaie covered the cost of uniforms and association membership fees out of his wages from a manufacturing job until he lost the job earlier this year.
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He is now crowdfunding and trying to attract sponsorship to get the $20,000 a year needed to keep the club going.
Without it, he is worried that young players will lose the structure and role models the club provided.
“It has been really positive and they have become good friends, they feel like they have family, they live together, and they help each other out,” he said.
“Sport is a good thing to bring the community together. It is important for these young people to know we can have a good life, we can be healthy and we can have family.”
As of Wednesday the club had .