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Kosovo refugees to play soccer

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Media Release

Federal Minister for Sport and Tourism, Jackie Kelly, has intervened to ensure that Kosovo refugees can play competitive soccer during their stay in Australia.

Minister Kelly met with Soccer Tasmania last night and agreed to assist the players in their wish to continue to play their cherished game.

Jackie Kelly said that following the meetings it had been agreed that the Kosovo refugees would play together as a celebrity team against other senior teams in Tasmania. The initiative stems from a wish expressed at a meeting of the refugees that they play together, as one group, Week in week out for the duration of their stay.

Minister Kelly said that given the limited duration of their visit the most important outcome is that the refugees are out on the field playing ~ not caught up in red tape.

'Soccer Tasmania has welcomed the outcome declaring that the games represent a unique opportunity for Tasmania to meet some fresh competition from far afield.

In the following fortnight, games will include competition with the Glenorchy Knights and the Hobart Zebras ~ two of the leading clubs in the Tasmanian senior competition.

The other clubs are also queuing up to play against the celebrity safe-haven team.

Jackie Kelly said that she had spoken with Soccer Australia and was confident that should the refugees be in Australia long enough, there was a very real likelihood that they would be approved by the sport to play in national competitions.

“The way is open for Fifa and Soccer Australia to grant the refugees a permit should one be required. There is no reason for that not to happen.

“It is important that Soccer Australia work within the rules of their international government body. However, Australia will use all its influence to encourage a positive outcome for the refugees.

“I am pleased that as a first step we have been able to get the safe-haven players out there on the field - helping to put their troubles behind them," Jackie Kelly said.

The Minister said that the Australian Institute of Sport is also promoting a sports ambassadors program through UNHCR for elite athletes to visit refugees camps.

Media inquiries: Peter Cassuben, Minister Kelly’s Office, 0417 980 009 CMR268

Minister for Sport and Tourism

Friday, 28 M ay 1999 99 154


Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 Tel: (02) 6277 7080 Fax: (02) 6273 4571