Tell us a little about your background and how your family ended up in Australia…
- My Dad was born in East Timor. He wanted to have a better education so he moved to Taiwan to pursue his study. He was quite lucky because within months of leaving there was a war in East Timor, so things could have turned out very badly for him.
- My Mum was born in Taiwan and met my dad while he was studying… fast forward to 1982 and they made the decision to move to Australia. They had 5 kids (including me) and are grateful that they made the move.
You have been with the AFL since 2012. In previous interviews you have said that you never felt any difficulty ‘fitting inside the four walls of a football club’, however in 2015 you were the subject of racial abuse by a Richmond fan. Do you think that the AFL have a role in educating its fans on the importance of multicultural acceptance in AFL and more broadly in general?
- I had no difficulty fitting into the club. To be honest, the reason I had no difficulty in fitting in was because they didn’t treat me differently to anyone else, which made it easier to feel accepted. I’m aware that I look different to most AFL players but we are all there to play footy so looks don’t matter. My own self-awareness made me more comfortable.
- In 2015 when the racial comments were made I hadn’t personally even heard it, it was only when the reports came out about it that I realised. It didn’t affect me, the person apologised and I accepted the apology. People make mistakes in the heat of the moment – but they do need to be called out on it and educated. There was no point in me getting angry or upset because it’s a reflection on them not me, I love playing footy and who I am.
- The AFL and clubs do definitely have a big role in educating fans about multicultural acceptance. I think they have gotten a lot better over the years with more programs coming out and more multicultural players in the AFL. Education and awareness is a big factor in acceptance.
How did the club support you after this event?
- The club was great in supporting me, the staff and players were calling me and sending texts to make sure I was okay. It was great to see how supportive everyone is, which says a lot about the club. The club came to me and asked my opinion on how I wanted to handle the situation.
You were part of the Multicultural Players’ Advisory Board that developed the Supporting Multicultural Footballers – Best Practice Guidelines. Can you describe how this document has been used and what impact it has had?
- Yeah, the guidelines are all about being accepting and understanding of multicultural players. The document has been used as an educational tool for everyone around the AFL and has been extremely positive so far. I feel like it has been accepted as common practice which is good, everyone can understand all the different cultures in the club.
What was one of the highlights of working on that project?
- I think the biggest highlight was working with other multicultural players and sharing experiences and ideas on how to make this great game more multicultural.
How can fans help support the AFL to address social issues such as racism?
- I think education and feedback go a long way in addressing racism. The AFL have been great and usually the fans are too. There are occasions where fans do say the wrong thing – but I think other fans usually call it out and show their disapproval.
What advice would you give a young player experiencing racism, or a player who is witness to racism in the club or on the field?
- My biggest advice would be to not dwell on it but understand that there is no need to stoop to their level. There’s a reason why they’re acting out but you should be happy with yourself and be the best you can be. Sport is such a great way to get together, so don’t let one comment stop you from doing that.
- Any type of racism needs to be called out straight away, there is no place for racism, either inside or outside of sport. So, rather than being aggressive when these situations arise – try to use it as an education opportunity.
What’s next for the Multicultural Players’ Advisory Board?
- Well we are just taking it as it comes really, if a situation or issue arises we will find a solution. At this stage we are happy with the steps that have been taken and its now time to put them into practice and evolve with the game. There are a lot more multicultural players coming up so we are becoming more diverse and we will focus on helping them transition into AFL life.