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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

Brasfoot: The new club celebrating South Australia's Brazilian community

Australia's local football landscape is dotted with clubs of ethnic origins. In 2024, Adelaide will welcome Brasfoot, a club celebrating the Brazilian community in South Australia. Front Page Football spoke to its President Felipe Alkmim for an insight into the most recent addition to Adelaide's football scene.

From left to right: Eduardo Vieira, Felipe Lemos, Guilherme Diniz, and Felipe Alkmim of the Brasfoot board during the club's first Brazilian football community day in May. (Brasfoot)


When an opposition player says he wants to speak to you after a futsal match, your mind naturally airs on the side of caution. But it turned out very differently for Felipe Alkmim when Guilherme Diniz approached him after a game.


"I had never seen him (Diniz) before, and we played against each other in a futsal league, and after the game he said, 'Hey man, I want to talk to you.' I was thinking, did I do something?" Alkmim joked, recalling his first encounter with Diniz.


Diniz, who lived in Brisbane before moving to Adelaide, played for local Brazilian club Braza Pine Hills in Queensland, and felt a similar concept catering to the Brazilian community was missing in Adelaide. He was tipped off about Alkmim's potential interest in such a project by mutual friends.


Fast forward to December 2023 and the initial idea has become a reality through Brasfoot, with Alkmim and Diniz taking up the roles of President and CEO respectively. Alongside them is Felipe Lemos (Football Director), Helio Mendes (Operational Director), Renan Turibio (Finance Director), and Eduardo Vieira (Marketing and Communications Director), just some of the many faces who have fleshed out what was only a dream less than a year ago into a reality.


Speaking to FPF, Brasfoot President Alkmim shared that the 2021 Census showed 2,000 Brazilians were living in Adelaide, with current projections showing that this number has risen closer to 3,000 since then. He shared the context behind why he believes Adelaide's Brazilian population is rising.


"To get a permanent residency, something that helps is living in more 'regional' areas, and Adelaide is considered one. But as you know it is full of opportunity; it is one of the reasons I love Adelaide," he shared.


"So a lot of Brazilians are moving to Adelaide, and I feel, I might be wrong here, that when they come to Adelaide, they are coming from different places in Australia, Adelaide is not the first city they lived in Australia. I lived in Melbourne for five years, Gui (Diniz) lived in Brisbane, Eduardo (Vieira) lived in Melbourne as well. A lot of people lived in different places and they come here to settle, so it is definitely a growing community."

The migratory nature of the Brazilian diaspora makes it hard to consolidate the growing community. Alkmim used the Brasfoot founders as an example, with most of the group being little more than acquaintances less than a year ago.


Brasfoot's President spoke about his wish to involve the community in their project, with the club's board using their connections while also working with the Brazilian Association of South Australia (BASA) to push their name out to an ever-growing diaspora.


"The Brazilian community is quite active so there are a lot of events going on. If someone wants to ever eat something, there are a lot of Brazilian restaurants in Adelaide, there’s always a band called Imigrasamba and there are other bands as well that play our kind of music," Alkmim said.


"There is a lot going on and what I find personally is that people will go to the music events, people who like food will go to food events. So what we are trying to do here is join all those different groups of Brazilians together, not only Brazilians but anyone who wants to join Brazilian culture."


Although there are many inaccurate stereotypes for all different cultures worldwide, Alkmim joked that Brazilians loving football is an accurate one. Witnessing this community grow in South Australia, creating Brasfoot almost felt like filling a gap in the football scene.


Alkmim shared that he takes inspiration from the long-standing ethnic clubs around Australia and can appreciate the amount of time and effort that has gone into their operation throughout the years. He feels now that many, like himself, are gaining their permanent residencies in their new home country, and it is time to start setting their roots while integrating their culture with the Australian lifestyle.


"I just feel proud of us, and when I say us I mean the club itself, and everyone involved, because there is this gap and we are known for being the country of football, and we can see clubs in Brisbane and Sydney. When we look at them and the success that they’ve been having, [it is] not only sports-wise but also bringing the community together and sharing our culture. That is, I think, the most important thing and that is something we want to emphasise here; it is not only about the Brazilian community in South Australia," Alkmim said.

"We have to remember where we are now and we want to belong here, we want to have this feeling of belonging, and to do that we cannot just be Brazilians with Brazilians. The idea is to join with other cultures, and mainly the Australian one, so we can be one culture at the end of the day, because what is Australia if not a mix of cultures? Maybe in the future, Brazil will have a bigger relevancy when it comes to Australian culture, and hopefully in South Australia Brazilians can be a part of that."

Like clubs with different ethnic backgrounds around Australia have done for years, Alkmim sees Brasfoot as a vessel keeping the Brazilian way of living alive on the other side of the world. He feels the club will be at its strongest when people of different backgrounds conjugate to celebrate the beauty of Brazilian culture.


Since the club's inception, Brasfoot has held two community football days to great success. While Alkmim would love the club to be a hit on the pitch, which he is confident will happen, he places the biggest importance on what happens off it.


"Our focus is 100% on the community," Alkmim reiterated.


"I want everyone who is playing to have their partners in the crowd with us; their kids, friends, or even their boss, to celebrate and bring people together!


"That is the idea, bring people together so we can celebrate our culture in Adelaide. I want to emphasise that again, it is about the Brazilian community in South Australia, it’s not about only thinking about celebrating Brazil. Let’s bring it to our reality, to the country that accepted us and welcomed us."

Brasfoot's two community football days have seen men, women, and children involved, and were resounding successes. (Brasfoot)


The community focus held Brasfoot in good stead when searching for facilities for their first year as a club. Alkmim understood the challenges of forming a new club, and stated they had filled an expression of interest for a facility providing them with a field and toilets, before a notable member of South Australia's Brazilian community intervened.


Former Adelaide United player Cristiano used his contacts to help the new club meet with Para Hills Knights President Dale Ramsey, who was looking for a sister club. The meeting was successful and it means Brasfoot will be working out of NPL-standard facilities in their first year.


"We met Dale, Julie, and Jamie (Para Hills Knights board members), and they were crucial for our club; they are crucial for our club right now. They have been extremely welcoming and I have no words to thank them for everything they do. They haven’t said a single no so far, and we have asked for a lot already!" Alkmim said.


"We are going to have a home and away change room, the referees will have their own rooms. We have a training pitch, the main pitch, that we are going to be using when they (Para Hills) play away. I can only imagine how much work they had [put in] to become the club they are now, the fact they wanted to share that with us is amazing."


Alkmim shared that after the agreement was struck, Ramsey mentioned that should Brasfoot's pitch be solely based on the football side, he may have rejected the proposal. But the Brazilian club's focus on community resonated with the Knights President and his mission in addressing a pet peeve.


"Dale (Ramsey) said that what he liked about us is the community idea, because he is all about his community as well, and what he hates most is they have a lot of junior teams but because they only have one senior team playing in the NPL, when those players get to a certain age, some of them will play but some cannot because you cannot fit everyone," Alkmim explained.


"The thing he told me that he hates the most was seeing those families go away because they are part of his community. He said that if he can have a sister club then we could have those players, and it is another opportunity for them to keep playing in the same premise, participating and being part of the community still."

Alkmim doubled down on his gratitude towards the Para Hills community, stating that board members have always been present at their events and are happy to help, and he hopes this relationship can be long-standing, where both clubs support each other as part of one big community. Along with their ever-present support, Alkmim mentioned that being associated with a staple of the community in Para Hills has also helped Brasfoot fill their sponsorship quota.

Para Hills Knights President Dale Ramsey (left) supporting Brasfoot during their second community football day. (Brasfoot)


While the men's 11-a-side teams will kick off in 2024, Brasfoot has adopted a women's futsal team. It's a program which accepted Brasfoot, Alkmim stressed, rather than the club creating it, as is the norm.


A group of passionate, primarily Brazilian, women had their futsal team in Adelaide and one day approached Brasfoot CEO Guilherme Diniz about helping with their training.


Diniz accepted the offer and was impressed with the passion and skill on display, and asked the group whether they wanted to progress from a casual league onto something more serious.


Thus, Brasfoot's women's futsal team was created, and would train on Fridays while casual futsal continued to be played on Mondays. Alkmim hopes the interest rises, both in Brasfoot but also in South Australian women's football, so those players have more opportunities to do what they love.

While Brasfoot's men's teams will kick off in 2024, the women have been playing futsal in 2023. (Brasfoot)


Brasfoot will field senior and reserves men's teams next year, and despite starting at a lower level than what most of their players have played at before, it has not dampened the group's spirits.


About 50 players trialling across three sessions will see the squad cut down to around 40 total, all of who will be playing between the seniors and reserves side. Alkmim believes Brasfoot's Brazilian-based methodology may prove a point of difference, and both squads will not underestimate their opposition throughout their first year.


"What I can say right now is that we are planning on having around 40 players because those leagues asked for seniors and reserves, and we want to do it a bit differently from what I’ve seen, at least from the clubs that I’ve played. We are not looking to have As and Bs training separately," he said.


"That is one of our methodologies as Brazilians, it is to bring them together and train together and week after week you’re going to start in the first division, then you are going to be in the other division, then the other week you might be sitting on the bench or playing for the reserves. Whatever it is, you are part of Brasfoot, you are not a senior or reserves player, you are a Brasfoot player and we need you regardless."

Two promises Alkmim can make is Brasfoot will be doing its best to create a friendly, inclusive environment encompassing the spirit of fair play and putting on the show, unsurprisingly embracing joga bonito.

 

READ MORE ON FPF

Brasfoot trialists after one of the three trial sessions, before the final squad is decided. (Brasfoot)


Should you visit a Brasfoot home game next year, Alkmim promises a vibrant atmosphere full of passion, food, music, and football, all staples of Brazilian culture.


He stressed that anyone who may feel intimidated by the language barrier will be welcomed, be it on the pitch or off it, regardless of their background.


"You will hear Portuguese but it is important to say as well that all trainings, and all communication, official communication from the club as well, will be done in English because everyone is welcome. So if you are not Brazilian, you are more than welcome," he shared.


"We have a coach that speaks English, the players speaking English. There will be times when everyone, from any nationality, will be speaking their language a little bit. But we are going to try and make everyone feel welcome. As I said, this is the Brazilian community in South Australia, so if you are in South Australia, you are part of our community as well, and we are part of your community."

Brasfoot wants to expand its women's team moving forward while also ensuring an eventual Over 35s team starts up, to include older members of the community. Beginning junior programs is also a long-term goal.


At the end of the day, regardless of whatever is happening on the field, Alkmim stated evidence of the project's success will come from what happens off it.


"If we lose a game and I look at everyone and they are happy and the community is together, and at the end of the day we are listening to some samba and we are eating some Brazilian barbecue, and I can see Brazilians, Columbians, Argentinians, Australians, all together, that is a big win for us because that is our goal," Alkmim said.


While the Brasfoot President promises a welcoming, family-friendly, and community-focused environment, Alkmim concluded by joking that once the 90 minutes begin, anyone who wants his right back position will have to take it from him!


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