- Sportspeople helping in the community during COVID-19 in Australia
- Play For Lives campaign encourages athletes to help community members in need
- Numerous footballers involved in the program led by former Australia captain
“Volunteers are being sidelined. It’s time for our sportspeople to sub in.”
The premise might be simple, but it is inspired.
With community resources stretched and sport on the backburner during the COVID-19 crisis, a programme in Australia is trying to channel athletes’ energy into helping the community.
Sports organisations - both professional and amateur - are being asked to mobilise their members as the turmoil created by the ongoing global health crisis hits the community, and in particular marginalised members of society.
Led by indefatigable TV presenter and former Socceroo captain Craig Foster – a 29-cap national team midfielder during Australia’s 1998 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign – the #PlayForLives campaign has built up a strong groundswell of support.
Backed by Professional Footballers Australia, the programme has enjoyed assistance and support from numerous footballers, local clubs, community groups and a host of other sportspeople.
The work involves preparing, packing and delivering food to members of society who are struggling under the economic and social stress brought by COVID-19. Transportation and other deliveries are also part of the work being undertaken.
It is manually intensive work but Foster says overcoming obstacles are just the kind of challenges sportspeople are capable of meeting.
“The message is, 'put up your hand and say you would love to help',” he said. “And that being the case, dig in for the long haul. The season is not just one game.”
One such footballer to volunteer is Sydney FC defender Ally Green, winner of last season’s W-League Role Model Award. “Times at the moment are challenging for all," Green said. “I guess for me there was never a better time to really take a step back from my busy sports commitments and look at other ways I could hopefully make a difference in the community.
“There are groups and individuals around us every day which need support, especially through times like this of job cuts and restrictive access to everyday supplies.
“I think it’s a no-brainer to support the community and provide the same opportunities and care to them.”
Others assisting the cause lately include 2019 The Best FIFA Women’s Coach nominee and current Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro, Matildas’ midfielder Alex Chidiac and former captain Melissa Barbieri.
"What we're finding is professional athletes and international athletes are very much enjoying the opportunity to take a much more outward focus and to learn about different vulnerable communities and to actually embed themselves," said Foster.
"Play for Lives is saying to the national sporting community 'keep that (spirit) alive' ... we keep it alive not by playing on the field, but by helping others.
"And by doing so we are discovering a new sense of compassion, that there might be a better way for sport to operate.
“Ultimately that's what sport is about - it's about togetherness and it's about community."