OPINION: Asian Cup a celebration of multiculturalism in Australia

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The success of the is not just a celebration of football in , it is also a celebration of multiculturalism and diversity writes Jieh-Yung Lo:

The Australian community’s overwhelming response to the 2015 Asian Cup signifies multiculturalism is alive and kicking (excuse the pun). To all the critics of multiculturalism and diversity out there, I am afraid you have lost again.

Australia is one of the world’s most culturally diverse countries with Australians coming from more than 200 countries and speaking almost 400 different languages. A big part of Australia’s multicultural community is those communities from the Asian region.

Thousands of people and families from across the Asian continent have made and called Australia home since the early days. Migrants from made their way to Australia in many forms, from labourers, tradesman and refugees back in the 19th and 20th centuries to students and business investors in the modern day. The Chinese became one of the earliest migrants from to settle permanently in Australia. This trend continued in the 1950s to 1980s with waves of migrants from Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Cambodia, Japan and Indonesia, followed by recent migrants from South Korea, India, the Middle East and Sri Lanka.

We have seen the power of multiculturalism and diversity in Australia in the last year. The determination and strength of multiculturalism eventually forced the Abbott Government to break an election promise by not repealing Section 18C from the Racial Discrimination Act. Recently, the #illridewithyou social media campaign #illridewithyou was a strong attempt to reduce cultural division and hatred in response to the Martin Place Sydney Siege.

Multiculturalism is no longer a political term used by politicians; it has become the fabric of Australia’s society.

Like many Australians hailing from a multicultural heritage, I was excited to learn of Australia serving as the host of the 2015 Asian Cup. To me, hosting the Asian Cup means more than just sport and football. Hosting the Asian Cup provides multicultural Australia with the opportunity to celebrate and showcase its multicultural heritage to the region and the world.

For many migrants, the yearn to be reconnected to their native homeland remains a core part of their daily lives. Migrant communities do this by reading the news, attending cultural events and participating in multicultural groups and associations. The hosting of the 2015 Asian Cup has added further interest within multicultural communities and associations around the country. These groups have gathered to host a number of localised activities to welcome their native homeland teams and heroes to Australia.

I saw this first hand during Melbourne Victory’s Asian Champions League (ACL) match with Guangzhou Evergrande earlier in the year.

As an Asian Cup Community Ambassador, I had the opportunity to organise various events and activities to promote the ACL game amongst the Chinese community. During this process, I was overwhelmed with the interest and enthusiasm shown by Chinese students, businesses and community groups. Their interest culminated in over 3,000 fans wearing Guangzhou Evergrande t-shirts coupled with drums and banners cheering on the team from their native homeland in person. Although Guangzhou Evergrande lost the game that night, the experience to welcome and cheer their team and players made the fans feel like winners.

What makes Australia a great place to live, study, and work is that individuals can support both Australia and their native homeland without being criticised for it. No individual or institution will ever question your allegiance or loyalty to another country other than Australia. Instead of being locked up by authorities, your enthusiasm in celebrating your cultural heritage is welcomed and encouraged.

The strength of the 2015 Asian Cup will bring people and communities of different cultures and backgrounds together through healthy competition.

I congratulate and thank the Asian Cup Local Organising Committee for giving me the opportunity to foster engagement and connection between the Chinese community and the wider Australian multicultural community.

This experience serving as a community ambassador has not only allowed me to strengthen my engagement with the Australian Chinese community, it also provided me with the platform to develop greater social inclusion and community connection with other multicultural communities.

I am confident the work done by the Local Organising Committee and the hundreds of community ambassadors from all multicultural backgrounds across Australia will come into fruition after the Asian Cup.

Until then, I hope that we can all unite to enjoy the Asian Cup experience and celebrate both football and multiculturalism in Australia.