A small world where everyone is welcome

September 30, 2013


United colours. Paul Saciri, Jose Lopez, Ibrahim, Santo Surace, Luke Bones, Fabian Matutini and  trainer Sam Visciglio

United colours. Paul Saciri, Jose Lopez, Ibrahim, Santo Surace, Luke Bones, Fabian Matutini and trainer Sam Visciglio

Boxing Central should be renamed the United Nations of Boxing. We’ve had an action packed week and one that, yet again, proves boxing to be one of the great unifying sports of the world.

It has warmed my heart to see so many nationalities mixing and enjoying themselves and each other’s company in our gym. We are home to the USA, Croatia, Iran, Iraq, the UK, Hong Kong, Ethiopia, Greece, Italy, Timor (East and West), Samoa  and even those born and bred in Yarraville!

Just over a week ago, the latest arrivals, Ibrahim and his friend Dhear appeared on the doorstep after spending the past year in asylum seeker limbo, the stuff you only read about and know the worst things about – Christmas Island, Darwin and Indonesia. These young men, with threadbare English and not much else, somehow found Boxing Central, so that Ibrahim, 28, could resume the training that had been disrupted since he fled Iran where he had competed for more than ten years.

On Sunday the pair joined us at the Calabria Club when Bianca Elmir, the ACT flyweight boxer and MBC friend fought along with our boxers Zoi Georgiou and Santo Surace. We celebrated Zoi’s win, were baffled by Santo’s loss and unsurprised by Bianca’s victory over the much taller but less experienced Kim Baldacchino.

Then Bianca and her mum Diana, who both speak Arabic thanks to being Lebanese, came to stay with me and train with us for the week. And we had instant interpreters, so we could find out a little more about our refugee pair.

And when Luke dropped the boys off at their house one night they insisted that he come inside so they could cook him a meal. Which they did. And with limited resources, the three ate out of pans, on the floor, using Google translate to help with dinner time conversation. Luke learned a little more about their journey to Australia, which involved capsizing boats, swimming for ten hours to be rescued by a fishing boat and meeting each other in Geelong. Due to the language barrier it’s a patchy story. But every day a little more of the missing pieces are found.

I have been moved by the generosity of people in the gym and how they have taken Ibrahim into the MBC family without question. And Ibrahim in turn has used one of the few words he knows, thank-you, with a warm smiles and gestures that assure me that one day we will know this young man a lot better. But for know we know he has boxing skills, generosity, good manners, respect and a new family in Australia.

And Jose Lopez, who has been here for only a few weeks himself has embraced the newest arrivals, sparring Ibrahim and helping him find his boxing legs again. As Jose says, boxing is a universal language. We all know the vocabulary and understand each other and what drives us.

And it’s not just Ibrahim and Dhear, but Ivan, formerly a Croatian water polo player, who has joined the team, compelling  me to buy heavier Kettlebells since the 20 kgs were too light for his 100kg frame. Ivan has also started boxing and looks like being an Eastern European version of Iron Mike Tyson! Ivan joins others of Croatian extraction, Dunja and Eva.

And other seasoned veterans, Cidalia Pires from East Timor and Leilia Marimuthu whose family hails from West Timor and our gun female southpaw, Samoan Mangaia Tofilau all add to the mix along with Ken Yuen from Hong Kong.

I can’t to see who walks through our door next.

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