Aisha receives the ball on the wing. She dribbles past one, two opposition players and from the tightest of angles, calmly slots the ball past the goalkeeper as the crowd erupts – only it’s heartbreak as the ref spots an infringement and disallows the goal.

This is the CALDplay Gala; where the trials and triumphs of sport bind people together.

More than 350 people of all ages from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds were united by the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation (WBCF), in conjunction with WorkSafe Victoria and the MCC Foundation, across Footscray last week, for the CALDplay Gala; a celebratory day of friendship, football and food!

While 200 primary and secondary students and school staff from across the Inner-West region of Melbourne gathered at Henry Turner reserve, 150 adults met at the VU Sports Hall.

Swapping the Sherrin for the round ball, the WBCF partnered with Western United Football Club, who expertly coached and officiated a series of round-robin tournaments.

Competition was fierce but fair across all levels throughout the day, no less so than during the inaugural walking-soccer tournament - allowing for the participation of people of all skill and fitness levels.

“I am very excited to be here to play football,” exclaimed Aisha, after starring in a junior tournament match.

“I used to play a lot before (I came to Australia), so it reminds me of home.”

Each school term, the CALDplay program teaches a different sport to recently arrived Australians, explained Quang Huynh, Diversity and Engagement Coordinator at the WBCF.

“The trials and triumphs that emerge through sport tie us together, bridging gaps between language, culture and sporting codes,” Huynh said.

“Building a life in a foreign culture is tough, and potentially isolating. By teaching new community members different sports, we equip them with a means of building connections in their local area.”

The senior tournament grand final ended with a nail-biting penalty shootout, with VU Nicholson crowned champions.

While presenting the post-tournament awards, WorkSafe Victoria representative Brenden Caligari was impressed with the way the participants competed.

“It was great to see everyone looking out for each other’s safety on the court, just as everyone should look out for everyone in the workplace,” he said.

“Statistics tell us that multicultural people are more at risk of injury in the workplace. To assist multicultural workers, WorkSafe now offers resources in 27 different languages, along with an interpreter service for our workplace safety advisory hotline”.