A British psychologist is hoping team sports will deter at-risk youth from being radicalised by ISIS or engaging in illegal activities as they grow older.
Dr Shamender Talwar and his colleague and co founder Anna Prior believe football is the best way to fight terror.
Dr Talwar with one of the TUFF FC teams in London
“Sport has an incredible way of breaking barriers, so it’s an education program that uses sport to lure the children in,” he told A Current Affair.
“When children are into sport or supporting their football team, or their cricket team, or their rugby team, they’re passionate about their team.
Doesn’t matter what colour you are or what background you’re from, if you’re wearing the same colours as me, I’m basically your brother.”
The TUFF model will be piloted in northern NSW
Ms Prior & Dr Talwar’s project was born in London, where they say young kids of Middle Eastern backgrounds are constantly targeted by ISIS.
So the psychologist helped co found The Unity of Faiths Foundation (TUFF).
TUFF Co founder Anna Prior with TUFF FC girls in Europe
“Children are targeted at puberty age and so it’s important, for Australia’s sake, to nip it in the bud now before the problem gets greater,” said Dr Talwar.
“Initially the project was there to support children who are under the poverty line, children that are going in gangs, children that were in the throws of going into drug addiction and more recently, radicalisation.”said Ms Prior
TUFF youth ambassador Iqra ismail proud to be British
“I was born and raised here, it’s who I am and there were times when I used to question that, but it has made me realise that it is indeed who I am”.
“It has made me realise who I am and although Muslim is part of who I am, identify myself, I’m British”said Iqra.
“Many have rejected the chance of going to Syria and through football, stopped them. And we realised this and that’s how we’ve educated and helped 33 children from Britain who could’ve gone to Syria. Stopped them through football,” he said.
The world has taken notice of TUFF FC (Football Community) project with the youths having been invited to Rome to be blessed by the Pope and invited to the White House by former US president Barack Obama.
Even Diego Maradona, one of the world’s best soccer players, offered to be the team’s patron.
Dr Anne Aly, the first Australian Muslim woman elected to the Federal Parliament and a world-renowned counter-terrorism expert, would like to see the program rolled out across the nation
Internationally renowned counter-terrorism expert Dr Anne Aly, the first Muslim woman elected to the Federal Parliament, believes the TUFF program will make a difference.
“I think a program like this should run across the country,” she said.
“The government needs to recognise the potential of these kinds of programs. But also recognise the seriousness of the issue and just how much we need to be focussing on these types of preventative programs as well as early intervention programs.”
While more funding for counter-terrorism measures like foreign spy programs were announced in the Federal Budget, Dr Aly would like to see more measures like TUFF being funded.
“I don’t think we’re doing enough at all, I don’t think this government has taken it seriously enough at all,” she said.
Dick Estens is keen to see the difference the program will make
Australian of the Year 2008 NSW local hero finalist, Dick Estens, who has been working with disadvantaged youth for decades, is also excited to see what sort of difference the program can make.
“I think there’s plenty of work in Australia for TUFF FC to get its teeth into,” he said.
“I’d like to see a program running in Western Sydney, I think Melbourne’s got some areas as well. I think it helps bring cultures together.
“Kingscliff Soccer Club, in northern NSW, is about to embark on a pilot program with TUFF.
Amanda Handisides is not concerned about her son becoming radicalised, but hopes it will help deter him from other kinds of anti-social behaviour
Amanda Handisides doesn’t think her 11-year-old son, Justin, is in danger of being radicalised but she does believe the program will make a big difference in her local community.
“I think it’s fantastic to use a vehicle like sport to address the issues in our community,” she said.
“I think having an organisation like that come on board will just bring our community closer.”
Kingscliff Football Club president Jill Austin hopes the program will foster positive attitudes
Club president Jill Austin says she jumped at the chance to use Dr Talwar’s program at the club.
“Here, locally, we just want to bring a sense of belonging back,” she said.
“It will help them with integration, obviously people are moving to these areas, it’s a great lifestyle here, so people are moving here. We realise that everybody deserves to be included.”
Anna Prior and Dr Talwar plan to extend TUFF across Australia once it has been refocussed specifically for Australia through the Kingscliff pilot program.
“What we do, we get the pilot program right here, we go to Sydney, we go to Melbourne, we go to other parts of Australia. We make the whole of Australia, all the children of Australia, proud to be Australian.”
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