Ambassadors for a game for all


In conversation with AFL stars Stephen Coniglio and Aliir Aliir

In the lead up to Round One, we’ve gone through the game and its basic rules, and exchanged our vows in the sacred ceremony of picking your team. Importantly, I hope that you have identified AFL is a unique game for one and all. In this issue we bring you something incredibly exciting as we speak with two stars of the game, AFL Multicultural Ambassadors Stephen Coniglio (GWS GIANTS) and Aliir Aliir (Sydney Swans).

Stephen Coniglio

AFL Multicultural Ambassadors.Indian Link
Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media

What value does multiculturalism bring to the AFL? 

SC: AFL in Australia has so many supporters and a massive audience it can reach out to. By celebrating and educating this audience on the importance of multiculturalism, together we can grow this game and bridge gaps in our society with issues around disrespect towards different cultures, whilst also celebrating the cultures that make up this great game and country. 

You were also quite a talented cricketer before joining the AFL. What are your tips on engaging those of Indian heritage where cricket has always been a religion?

SC: I loved my cricket and still do. My advice would be to embrace and try many sports and give it a shot at understanding its rules, what it brings and means to a lot of people. Do what you love and that doesn’t have to be just one sport. It can be many! 

AFL Multicultural Ambassadors.Indian Link
Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media

Favourite Indian food, movie, song, cultural celebration?

SC: Tough choice. I’ve been to India when I was 16 on a cricket tour and was fortunate enough to spend some extra time off over there. The culture and people are like no other, their friendly and peaceful nature is amazing. It’s hard to go past a classic naan bread with butter chicken, although that may seem a little mainstream. My favourite movie was Slumdog Millionaire, but after recently seeing Lion, that takes the lead as my favourite. 

Aliir Aliir

You came to Australia as a refugee at age seven. Did AFL play a role in such a big transition between two countries?

AA: Yeah, definitely. It helped me to connect with other kids and I allowed me to enjoy a new environment, new culture and new country.

AFL Multicultural Ambassadors.Indian Link
Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media

Being the first AFL player of Sudanese heritage in the game’s history has turned you into a beacon for cultural diversity in sport. Do you feel like you have a big role to play in promoting multiculturalism in the AFL?

AA: To be honest I haven’t really looked back and thought about being the first person of Sudanese heritage to come through the draft and things like that, but I know that being from a different country I have a role to play in terms of helping and getting other multicultural kids into AFL and that’s part of what I love doing.

What do you hope to bring to your role as a Multicultural Ambassador for the AFL? 

AA: I guess to connect other kids, wherever they might be from, and try to help them feel like they’re welcome. I’d like to share my experience of how I got here and teach them that they can do whatever they want to do whether it be AFL, soccer, whatever sport, so they can feel comfortable and feel Australian.

AFL Multicultural Ambassadors.Indian Link
Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media

Favourite Indian food, movie, song, cultural celebration?

AA: Is Butter Chicken in there? Yeah, definitely Butter Chicken!

Well then, you’ve had it all. The rules, the teams, the brilliant players. Now get ready for Round One. Welcome to the AFL!

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Khushaal Vyas
Khushaal is a past winner of the NSW Premier's Multicultural Youth Medal and Australian Student Leader of the Year. He is an active advocate on issues of cultural diversity as well as on Indigenous affairs and has been an Australia Day Ambassador since 2018. Despite the extra time at home thanks to the pandemic, his culinary skills remain embarrassingly limited to chai, toasties and instant noodles