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Migrant girl pursuing her round ball dreams

23 November 20170 comments

Just four years after arriving in Australia teenager Melika Dolatabadi is on her way to realising her dream of becoming a professional soccer player.

The 17-year-old has just been accepted into an elite women’s soccer program. She will be joining National Premier League (NPL) club Calder United to play in the Under-19 competition for the 2017/18 season.

Melika, who fled her homeland Iran with her parents in 2013, is in Year 10 at Pascoe Vale Girl’s College and is captain of the school’s soccer team.

She says she hopes to make a career out of soccer.

“Women’s soccer is taking off especially with the success of Australia’ national team, the Matildas, and I hope to play in a professional league one day,” Melika said.

“I love everything about soccer. It’s fun and it takes my mind off any problems I might have,” she said.

Melika and her family fled their homeland because of issues with the Iranian Government.

Melika, who plays in central midfield and on the right wing, says she played soccer “a little” in Iran.

She says that she took up soccer seriously after arriving in Australia but that in Iran it would be almost impossible for her to pursue a career in the sport as a woman.

“In Iran we had no freedom, I would have to play soccer in a hijab and covered up,” Melika said.

Melika tried out for the Calder team and a few weeks ago was told she had made the squad. But NPL registration carries a fee of $2000 and as asylum seekers, Melika’s family could not afford the sum.

She overcame another setback when she broke her arm in training in April.

“I broke my arm when I fell over in training. IT was very painful but I’ve had a lot of treatment and it’s better now,” Melika said.

The Dolatabadi’s were able to secure funding from the Charan Foundation – which helps disadvantaged youth access sports programs – to pay the NPL registration fee.

“We were really pleased we could help for Melika – the club said she was a superstar in the making,” a spokesperson of the foundation said.

Melika’s father Jamal said he was “very proud” of his daughter and thanked the Charan Foundation for its support.

Melika told how the family’s journey to Australia was fraught with danger – but that held no comparison to the perils her family faced at home.

“Because my Dad and my uncle had worked in western countries, it made the police very suspicious of them and they had a very difficult time. So we had to leave,” Melika said.

She said the family travelled to Indonesia from where they found a boat to take them to Australia.

“We had to trek through jungle that was very dense. We wanted to go back but they wouldn’t let us,” Melika said.

“The people had promised us a big fancy boat, but when we got there it was a very small fishing boat and the trip was very scary,” she said.

Since arriving in Australia Melika has gained a little sister Ronika, now two-months old.

“She very cute. I want to teach her to play soccer when she’s bigger,” Melika said.

Melika says she loves her life in Australia.

“There is so much freedom here. People can follow their dreams and everyone is friendly and helpful – not like in Iran,” she said.

“I love going to school and I have a lot of friends. I’m looking forward to the future and I’m sure soccer will be a big part of it,” Melika said.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist