Page last updated at 12:17 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Australian Rules Football picks first black African

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Majak Daw
Majak Daw wants to encourage other Africans to integrate in Australia

A Sudanese refugee has made sporting history by becoming the first black African-born player to join an Australian Rules Football League team.

Majak Daw, 18, has been signed by one of the competition's most famous clubs, North Melbourne.

He hopes his success will encourage other African migrants into the game.

Daw and his family fled civil war in Sudan when he was nine years old, and arrived in Australia in 2003 after living in Egypt.

The gangly teenager took up Australian Rules Football just four years ago.

He has signed a two-year contract with the North Melbourne club and will start his career in the reserves while he continues to learn the intricacies of this unique Australian sport.

Confidence boost

Daw hopes his efforts will encourage other African migrants to integrate more into mainstream society.

"When I first started a lot of my Sudanese friends, the boys, they weren't a fan of me playing footy, they tend to hang around the Sudanese people, just one area," he said.

"I kept on telling them you need to get out and explore and know these people, because you're going to be living here all your life - you're not going to be with the Sudanese people the whole time.

"Me making it into AFL will give them more opportunities and give them confidence to go out there and do their own things to better themselves."

Racism has tarnished Daw's journey into the elite ranks of the AFL, but he says the taunts and abuse have only served to harden his resolve.

A spokesman for North Melbourne told the BBC that the teenager had "enormous potential" to succeed at the highest level.

He confirmed that Daw was the first black African-born player to be picked up by a professional club.

In the past decade about 25,000 Sudanese refugees have been resettled in Australia.

The number of arrivals has slowed as the focus of official government policy in Canberra has shifted towards accommodating those displaced by instability in Burma and Iraq.

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