When Southern United youngster Sita Karimi arrived in Australia five years ago after fleeing war torn Afghanistan, little did she realise how much the world game would help shape her life and provide her a ticket to embracing Australia and all of its freedoms.

Karimi, like many refugees who arrive on our shores, had little command of the English language and even worse, had faced oppression and tragedy that most of us wouldn’t see in our worst nightmare.

Now aged 20 and studying a business degree at Victoria University whilst playing NPLW football with Southern United, the talented youngster often reflects on the path life has taken her. 

”I came from Afghanistan in late 2014, my brother came here by boat three years before us,” Sita explains. “He sponsored us because we couldn’t stay in Afghanistan, the living conditions were really bad at the time.

“I have one sister, she is married so doesn’t live with us. I also have two brothers who are both studying at university. I also have my mother here, sadly my father passed away when I was young.

“When we arrived here in Australia, I started a new life like a newborn basically. I couldn’t speak a word of English. I spent a year at language school at Noble Park English language school.”

In a country like Afghanistan, females are often given little opportunity to experience the outside world, meaning education and the opportunity to play sport are not an accepted part of life. When she came to Australia though, Karimi’s life perspective changed, and a simple round ball game opened her to a world that seemed so far away only four years ago.

Now playing the game she loves at the NPLW level for Southern United, Karimi wants to share her story and show all young women out there, especially refugees, what the beautiful game has to offer.

“The dream of being a soccer player was always in my heart, as I was not allowed to play soccer in my country,” she explains. “I was watching the village boys playing and it was just amazing, but on the other hand it brought me to tears because I couldn’t play. 

“When we got here it took a lot of time to change my mum’s mind and get her to allow me to play soccer. One day I was playing in the park with a few boys, one of them told me I’m doing alright and that I should join a club.

“I found out that there was a club where I could actually join a girls team, before then I never knew there was such a thing as a girls team. I asked my brother to let me join a club and he helped me with it as he always does, so I joined Noble Park SC. I played there for three months before I quit because we failed to pay half of the club fee, as no one was working, we were all studying. I had just started high school and it was pretty hard for me because I couldn’t play for a club for a long period of time.”

Karimi didn’t give up though and an opportunity was soon around the corner with Whitehorse United. Even this wasn’t easy though and Karimi found herself sometimes struggling to get to games. But much like her endeavour on the football field, she kept on fighting. Her persistence paid off and soon enough an opportunity with Southern United in the NPLW juniors came up. 

“In 2017, I joined Whitehorse United SC, it was far from where I lived but I got heaps of support from the club and coaches plus teams mate so I chose to play there.

“Unfortunately I was missing most of my training sessions and I was hardly getting to the games on Sundays because there was no one to drive me to the club and I wasn’t able to drive either because I was too young.

“So basically every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday I used to cry because I couldn’t make it to training sessions and games.

“However, at the end of 2017 when Southern United held a trial I joined them. I actually found it the best club ever, more than I could have ever dreamed of. We had the best coaches and I had amazing team mates, it was so very multicultural.

“Initially I was struggling to playing there because all of my teammates are really good as they have been playing for a long time. They had experience whilst I hadn’t been playing for that long at the time.”

After two solid years in the NPLW junior program, Karimi’s football has improved significantly. She still harbours dreams of one day being a W-League player. This dream hasn’t been extinguished by the fact Southern lost their senior NPLW licence for 2020. It will simply be another obstacle Karimi will overcome. 

“I’ll never give up on it though. I can’t learn how to get up without falling down.I want to appreciate this country for giving me lots of opportunities. I want to help encourage participation in sports as it has made me so happy.”

One gets the feeling there are many more chapters to write in this amazing story.