Growing up in a first generation Asian immigrant family in the early 90's in Australia had it's fair share of ups and downs. For one, I was pretty bright in school. I remember in Grade 2, before the time of mainstream internet, my parents would fly textbooks from Singapore and i'd spend 2 hours after school learning the Singaporean syllabus. During the day i'd be cutting out coloured shapes and gluing them together and at night, I'd learn my times tables and convert grams to kilograms. When I wasn't studying, I would usually be in the backyard kicking a soccer ball around, sometimes for hours on end but always alone.
The irony of my parents moving to a land of opportunity but never allowing me to visit friends houses or enrolling me into extra curricular sport or activities didn't dawn on me as a teenager at the time. A part of me assumes that education was always number 1 but the other part of me wants to believe that the opportunity for them was never there. At the time, all the serious clubs and academies costs money and were predominantly made up of kids who didnt look like me so I could understand my parents hesitance at the time.
Growing up many many years later, I learnt that this was not uncommon amongst many of my futsal friends. Most of us lucked into the sport through knowing someone or like me, played mixed at Albert Park when a random named Matthew Piga asks me to fill in for his club Brunswick in a league called the V-League. I was one of the lucky ones, being one of the few asians at the time that was snapped up and found myself playing at one of the highest levels in the state.
As my playing career edges closer and closer to it's end, it's hard not to think about the lack of opportunity that still exists today for 2019 version's of me, of Kui, of Hiep. It didn't take much convincing between us but Melbourne AKU FC was created to give a chance to like minded people in the South East wanting to improve beyond the realm of their social league. To build a platform and an environment where people are given a chance to be coached at a high level (our captain/coach Kui has represented East Timor and played at the AFC) as well as provide professional on and off court gear with all fees sponsored by AKU. Our players don't pay a cent and we ask for dedication and hard work in return. We host free training sessions for beginners and our club training sessions are open for anyone who feels accomplished at social league and looking for that next level. Essentially, it's what I wished I had when I was that 14 year old looking for a place to belong.
On top of running a rapidly growing brand, Melbourne AKU FC in itself is a huge commitment, but our labour was rewarded this week when one of our trainees, Anthony, 20 years old with no prior futsal experience made his first start for the club after 2.5 months of attending every training session and making the drive from Keysborough to Brunswick every week to support us at games. Anthony, may be the first, but the dream is to grow the mens team, a youth team, a womens team and an academy, but for now... baby steps as we look at winning that League 3 title.