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The Power of Sport

Samantha Weston

12 Sept 2023

Samatar Ali's Journey to Empower African Australian Youth

Sport can bring together communities and offer purpose and belonging to all. It has the ability to create positive change and inspire. Samatar Ali is a young person who has harnessed the power of sport and has used his passion for providing a voice to those who are unrepresented, to empower African Australian youth on a global stage. 

Born in New Zealand, Sam moved to Australia with his grandmother at the age of 14. It did not take long before Sam found himself at home on the basketball court. 

“That is where I felt the safest…on the basketball court. Everything else going on in the world does not exist there.” 

As he adjusted to a new culture and school system, he realized that the court was more than just a place to have fun; it was providing him the necessary tools to express himself and feel confident. 

Through connections made at school, Sam began attending Huddle programs as a teen. Via The Huddle, he was introduced to Larita Academy and the National Basketball League (NBL). It was here that he undertook a three-day workshop with NBL executives that not only expanded his knowledge of the game, but ignited a passion for coaching that would shape his future. 

“That’s my craft, and I decided that this will be my profession too – coaching is what I want to do.” 

Recently, Sam had the opportunity to travel to Geneva, Switzerland, in partnership with the Scanlon Foundation and The Huddle. Here, he participated in a panel on Economic Empowerment of people of African descent at the United Nations (UN). At the UN, Samatar spoke passionately about the power of sport in providing a sense of belonging for African Australian youth. 

Samatar and his delegation raised several crucial issues. They emphasized the need for more policy, advocacy, and literacy surrounding the challenges faced by People of African Descent. Unity, both within the community and in governing bodies, was another key point. Samatar emphasized, “I need more people of African descent in these boardrooms to help inform understanding as well as guide progressive decision-making.” He stressed the importance of representation in decision-making processes. 

Sport holds a significant place in Australian culture, but unfortunately, it is still not for everyone. Many people who have migrated to Australia from African countries have played sport prior to arriving, but once they have settled in Australia, they can face significant barriers and challenges to participate in organised sport. 

To truly empower young African Australians, affordable options and pathways to sports need to be accessible and to explore ways to play differently. 

“Every kid deserves the opportunity to become a better version of themselves, and sport really facilitates that growth.” 

Reflecting on the trip to Genova, Sam shares that the experience made him more determined than ever to make a difference. It fuelled his passion and his demand for more opportunities for girls and young women. He stresses the need for a careful and focused approach to applying funding where it is needed most. This means acknowledging the grassroots and community aspects of sport, where the key message remains coming together to connect and play for fun. 

In the wake of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Federal Government has pledged $200M for women’s sports, with Prime Minister Albanese stating that it will “…promote equal access and build more suitable facilities”. More needs to be done to design and play sport differently. The government needs to begin using a system that is not reliant on income streams to stay afloat, such as memberships and uniforms. Support needs to come in the form of listening to what communities need and want to foster sporting availability, quality, and growth. 

Now that he is back home, Sam's focus is completing his business degree at Victoria University. He is determined to excel in basketball coaching and administration while also collaborating with corporate Australia and government bodies to create real opportunities, access, and equity for people of African Descent. Sam believes this path is his true calling, and by becoming an exceptional teacher, executive, and leader, he hopes to make a lasting impact once he achieves his basketball goals. 

“The focus every day is to outwork yesterday”. 

As he continues to learn and grow, Samatar's story serves as an inspiration to all who believe in the boundless potential of sport to create positive change. 

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