It may not be the most well-known sport in Australia, but futsal (five-a-side soccer) is helping to break down social barriers among culturally diverse communities in Geelong’s northern suburbs.
The new Rotary of Corio Bay Fun Female Futsal program at Norlane’s Leisuretime Sports Precinct encourages women aged 13 to 25 to access physical activity and social connectedness in a safe community environment.
Leisuretime Sports Precinct and Barwon Valley Activity Centre manager Brad Roberts said the program aimed to “increase social participation opportunities” for women that would normally miss out on playing sport due to their cultural responsibilities.
“For a lot of these CALD communities, soccer is an extremely popular sport, yet females have not had a lot of opportunities to get involved and play either due to limited program or competitions available, work or study commitments or cultural backgrounds and the traditional role that females play within some cultures at home,” he said.
“Geelong’s north has a lot of culturally and linguistically diverse communities who are not currently involved in or participate in any regular activity or structured sporting activity.”
The program has been a roaring success and now has enough participants for four teams, with eleven women attending the first session last month and 25 attending the most recent.
The Rotary of Corio Bay has put $3000 towards the program, which keeps player costs down to $2 for each player per week in a bid to increase the accessibility of the program.
Fun Female Futsal is also supported by The Fort Youth Centre and the City of Greater Geelong, which operates the Leisuretime Sports Precinct.
Mr Roberts said the program targeted young females in the hope that it would have a positive trickle-down effect to their families and CALD communities.
“l see this program as the pathway for these young female players to open the door for others from these CALD communities to firstly see the fun and enjoyment all involved in the program are having, and then also let them see the facilities and opportunities that are available for them to also get more active in social sport in the local community,” he said.
The female futsal program comes off the back of the hugely successful Corio Bay Futsal League that grew to an eight-team league last year and has had 262 players since it began in 2015.
Mr Roberts said the program was established after community leaders and young women approached the centre about the possibility of soccer being made available for females on an “assessable and affordable” regular basis.
“They wanted something that they could help develop and also have a sense of ownership over as to how it operates, how it looks and also that any female from any background or skill level is welcome,” he said.
“We will be soon also seeing support to get interested females involved in refereeing as we want to have more females involved in all aspects of the game, from playing, to coaching, to competition management, to officiating, and everything in between.”
The City of Greater Geelong may seek a State Government grant to support the program and is considering joining the VicHealth This Girl Can campaign.
The Fun Female Fustal Program runs each Monday from 6pm to 8pm at the Leisuretime Sports Precinct.