Why a former refugee turned Freo footballer is on a mission to inspire more girls into sport
Becoming one of the first ever professional female AFL players seems a million miles removed from Akec Chuot’s early life in a Kenyan refugee camp, but the bubbly 24-year old says it just proves that life can take some unexpected turns.
Akec or Susan to her friends was selected by the Fremantle Dockers for the first AFLW draft in November last year.
“I was originally born in South Sudan, but my Dad died before I was born and so I was named in honour of my Father. Because of the civil war, we moved to a refugee camp in Kenya and life was tough. My Mother had five children and worked extremely hard to keep us at school and ensure we had food on the table.”
Akec had an Uncle in Melbourne and the family started to investigate ways to emigrate to Australia, but it wasn’t easy and visa applications kept being refused. Their plans were delayed even further when her Mother gave birth to another child and they had to start the visa process again.
Eventually they were successful and in 2005 at the age of 12 Akec landed on Australian soil. The family chose to live in Mirrabooka in Perth and Akec settled into school and soon found a love for soccer, following the British Premier League from afar.
“I suppose my role model was and still is Thierry Henry. I have always been a fan of Arsenal so when I arrived I embraced soccer and everything sporty. I would play in competitions and couldn’t believe games were held in the evening on floodlit pitches, this was luxury and something that I never experienced in Africa growing up. I was constantly amazed at my new surroundings and blessed at the opportunities open to me.”
A visit to her school by the East Perth Football Club sparked an interest in the traditional Aussie football game. Fast forward and now Akec plays in the West Australian Women’s Football League (WAWFL) for the Swan District and last year joined the backline for the Fremantle Dockers in the first AFLW draft.
She also holds down a job as a Community Engagement Liaison Officer for the WA Football Commission, encouraging youngsters to embrace the sport by visiting schools and promoting footy.
In the summer months, life is busy as Akec works and then goes onto training to prepare for AFLW games.
“I finish work and get to Fremantle for 4.30pm and train until 9pm, we do fitness, running and footy skills, it really is full on. We had a family open day and my Mum and siblings came to see me and were quite amazed at a time trial I undertook and the 2km run I had to complete, training can be very intensive.”
This year Mundella Foods is sponsoring the WA Women’s Youth Football League the WAWFL. Mundella likes to partner with organisations that promote healthy eating and an active lifestyle. Akec will take to the podium to speak about life as an AFLW player, she’ll answer any questions and hopes to inspire girls to follow their passion.
“It’s not necessarily that I want to encourage them to be AFL stars, I just want girls, especially those from multicultural backgrounds, to embrace sport. I’d like to meet more rising stars from ethnic communities, let’s beat the boys! Look at Serena Williams and how far she has come – she has really broken down barriers and has achieved so much, now it’s time for her to move over, let’s see some new female sporting stars take her place.”
PhotoCredit: Michael Bain