Round-ball dreams: a refugee’s journey
As a boy living amid the chaos and violence of the Iraqi war and then as stateless refugee languishing in Jordan one thing kept Sarmad Rubaye hopeful of a better future.
Sarmad’s passion for soccer was his saviour as life appeared bleak and without prospects.
Now settled in Melbourne, the 25-year-old hopes to make a career out of the round ball game.
Sarmad fled his home in Iraq to escape the war with his family at the age of 12 after his uncle was killed in sectarian fighting.
It was in that same year that Sarmad touched a soccer ball for the first time, forever altering his life in different way.
“I fell in love with soccer when I was twelve,” Sarmad said.
“I fell in love with the game and I said to myself ‘this is what I’m going to do with my life.’”
Sarmad and his parents fled as refugees to Jordan with the hope of creating a new home.
“We didn’t have a good a life in Iraq anymore and Jordan was the only option,” he said.
They spent the next ten years there living as stateless persons with no legal standing and his two younger brothers were born.
During that time Sarmad pursued his greatest passion despite adversity, deprivation and hostility to their presence.
“My life is all about soccer. Watching it, playing it, coaching it, everything,” Sarmad said.
Sarmad gained much of his inspiration from his hero, the Brazilian soccer player ‘Ronaldinho’.
“My idol, Ronaldinho is a genius. He makes you fall in love with the game, just by watching him play,” he said.
“I was the best player in my team for three years, so my friends called me Sarmaldinho,” Sarmad says bashfully.
‘Sarmaldinho’s’ passion coupled with his persistence in advancing his skills pushed him to eventually play professionally in Jordan.
“My first game as a professional I was shaking,” Sarmad said.
“But after that it was a great feeling, being in a stadium with people watching.”
During his time as a professional player he was also studying Sports Science at University, which proved to be a challenge in itself.
“It was really hard studying because every bit of money I made from playing soccer went straight to the university,” Sarmad said.
With Sarmad and his family struggling, they were given the opportunity to resettle in Australia as refugees in August of last year.
“We moved here to get a better life, to start life,” he said.
Now at the age of twenty-five Sarmad is more determined than ever to become a soccer star in a new home.
He is studying English and playing for a local club in Melbourne’s south east.
“The first coach I ever had is the best coach ever and he advised me, whatever you do, you have to take a soccer ball with you. Sleep with it!”
“My dream is to play in big stadiums like AAMI Park stadium. I love the city. I want to play there, it’s just beautiful,” Sarmad said.
With Sarmad’s challenging and varied life, his love for soccer makes sense.
“Soccer, it’s a game for everyone; poor people, rich people and its inspiration for the kids everywhere, everyone.”
Sarmad’s story will be shown in video form among other inspiring stories from young refugees to be launched at ACMI on June 8th as the ‘Heartlands 2016 Arts Project: Stories from Refugee Youth’.
AMES Australia Staff Writer