Australian Embassy



A group of Palestinian children from various refugee camps in Beirut and Saida had the chance-of-a-life-time last week, when the Australian Embassy in Beirut and UNRWA arranged for them to meet the Qantas Socceroos.

On Wednesday 5 September, thirty children, all of whom play football, were invited to attend a closed Qantas Socceroos training session at Saida International Stadium. Australian Ambassador Lex Bartlem provided every child with a green and gold t-shirt featuring a kangaroo and a football, emblazoned in Arabic with the phrase, “I met a Socceroo!” The team also handed out Socceroos flags before heading out onto the training pitch.

After the training session finished, the kids lined up for their big moment – the chance to meet the players! Despite the efforts exerted on the pitch, every Qantas Socceroo took the time to shake hands, pose for photographs, and sign shirts, flags and footballs. Australian superstars Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer were particularly popular, while captain Lucas Neill tested out his Arabic, much to the children’s delight.

“Some of these players are among the biggest sports stars in the world,” said Ambassador Bartlem. “The fact that they are prepared to spend time lighting up the lives of children is a credit to them, and something that the kids will remember for the rest of their lives.”

Things got even more exciting on Thursday 6 September, when the children attended the international friendly match between the Qantas Socceroos and the Lebanese National Football Team, again at the Saida International Stadium.

With tickets provided by the Australian Embassy, the group of Palestinian children and their UNRWA guardians swelled to sixty, and were joined by an additional fifty guests from the Saida Orphanage. In true Australian spirit, travelling Australian fans immediately made an effort to make everyone feel at home, gifting the children horns and Australian flags and teaching them the “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie: Oi Oi Oi” chant, which was taken up with gusto.

The perfect night was capped with a dominant display from the Qantas Socceroos (who triumphed 3-0), much to the delight of their newest fans.