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‘People need to know they belong’: How Chinese Australians are helping to increase the AFL’s diversity

A man holds a football in an office.

When Arthur Liu first set his foot in Melbourne 20 years ago, the very first person he met gave him advice on how to become a “true Australian”.

Despite this long history, Chinese Australians are among the most underrepresented ethnic groups on AFL fields, in its boardrooms, and in club membership, which Mr Pi said was due to a couple of factors.

“From my experience, everything is about academic success among the Chinese diaspora,” Mr Pi said.

“Another factor is, for a long time [the AFL] didn’t really engage our new migrants, not just of Asian backgrounds. That has really changed over the last few decades.”

Mr Pi said the AFL needed to do more to make multicultural communities feel welcomed, but migrants should also stop seeing sport as irrelevant to their children’s development.

‘People need to know they belong’

A man holds a football in an office.
Jamie Pi became a AFLPA accredited player agent this year.(Supplied)

This year, Mr Pi attained a master’s degree in sports management and became an AFL Player Association (AFLPA) accredited player agent.

He hopes to attract more Chinese and other Asian players to the oval to change the monocultural stereotypes of the game.

“There are now more and more migrant faces all around on our ovals, not just of Asian backgrounds,” Mr Pi said.

“I want to bring a fresh face, a different look to this profession.

He said the AFL was also working on institutional change to bring more minority ethnic groups into the sport, which he said would “definitely pay dividends”.

“There will be more and more players at the elite level from multicultural backgrounds … I’m sure we will see that in the next decade,” Mr Pi said.

A man dressed in a red Sherrin football suit waves to hundreds of fans lining the street during the grand final parade.A man dressed in a red Sherrin football suit waves to hundreds of fans lining the street during the grand final parade.
AFL fans of Chinese ancestry make up a small portion of the game’s supporter base.(ABC News: Dylan Anderson)

Melbourne’s Mr Liu said the uptake of footy among his children would also pay dividends, by giving them skills other hobbies may not give, as well as getting them outside.

“Compared to individual sports like tennis, footy is a team sport, it requires good cooperation and communication ability, that’s something really hard for adults to teach,” he said.

“Sport is a good way to train those skills.”

As Melbourne gradually reopens after its long lockdown, Lionel will soon begin his training in Auskick.

Meanwhile, Vescio is also hoping to resume the advocacy associated with her role as an AFL Multicultural Ambassador.

She believes young people from ethnic minorities who might be thinking about a career in football should “absolutely go for it”.

Darcy Vescio extends her leg out straight in front, just after a kickDarcy Vescio extends her leg out straight in front, just after a kick
Carlton’s Darcy Vescio kicks a goal during the round 1 AFLW match against Collingwood in 2017.(AAP: Joe Castro)

“Even if you don’t see yourself reflected in the club and you want to try out, just get involved at a community level that might involve anything around the club,” she said.

“I think people need to know they also belong in the game and they make the game better.

Source: AFL NEWS ABC