Home Australia Opia used to sit in the park watching her brother play soccer. Now she is showing off her own abilities.

Opia used to sit in the park watching her brother play soccer. Now she is showing off her own abilities.

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A young woman holding flowers next to her mother and brother.

Twenty-three-year-old Kevin Opia shares a passion for soccer with his twin brother, Robert.

“He’s my biggest role model in this game. I look up to him,” he says.

She used to accompany him and his companions whenever they went to the local park for a kick.

“I would always watch them and sometimes even join them if they let me.”

Opia with his mother and brother.(Supplied)

An elementary school teacher helped Opia gain confidence to step out of her brother’s shadow and join a team.

“She basically trained me to be the best version I can be in the sport.

“I started to see that people saw potential in me.

“That made me very emotional and very accepting.”

A young African footballer dribbles the ball at an opponent.

From seeing her brother in the park to becoming a skilled player herself.(ABC News: Bindi Bryce)

Opia was encouraged to focus more on his education than playing sports.

“Whereas my brother had a certain perseverance to keep trying and go after his dreams.”

Football organizer Aminata Madua says it’s a common attitude among African families.

“The mother would be happy for her to stay at home, taking care of the children, while the children go out and kick the ball.

“It was just us supporting the men, going to see our brothers and uncles play,” he says.


Ami Madua says there are many talented female players with African heritage who can become Matildas.(ABC News: Bindi Bryce)

Madua says she was inspired by the Matildas’ heroics at last year’s Women’s World Cup.

He also gathered in African restaurants with friends and family to watch Nigeria’s impressive run.

“I’m getting excited about how good they were.

“Seeing these women play as well and as well as the men, the anticipation was just as amazing.”

Three Nigerian teammates celebrate with Chiamaka Nnadozie after the Women's World Cup match against Canada.

Nigeria were tough to beat when they reached the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup in Australia. (AAP: Morgan Hancock)

For years, the annual New South Wales Africa Cup has brought the community together, with players representing their home country.

Madua says it has been difficult to gather enough players to form women’s teams, and when they did, they were often scheduled to play early in the morning.

“No one else will wake up to come watch and support, and it’s disheartening.

“That’s why we’re here to break that barrier for future generations.”

Two older soccer organizers with two players.

Kama Umoja organizers feel that African women’s teams do not receive enough attention.

She has been named vice president of Kama Umoja, an independent soccer tournament for African women that begins in October.

“We have been doing this for many years and our voices were in the background.

“It’s one of the first women’s cups in New South Wales for women of colour, exclusively for us.”

A photo of the team with players from different nations.

South Sudan, Congo and Ghana are represented by local players.(ABC News: Bindi Bryce)

The tournament is expected to spark discussions in the community about the benefits of sport.

“Having those conversations will come from the parents first.

“We can talk to them in such a way that they understand that their daughters are just as great as the men.”

A girl leans against a wall with a soccer ball.

Opia wants to inspire other African girls to pursue their dreams in football.(ABC News: Bindi Bryce)

Opia will represent her native country, South Sudan, in Kama Umoja.

She played in the first women’s team at the African Cup and says there are now many more girls willing to sign up to play.

“I want girls to be in their own zone, in their own empowerment, and have a great time,” she says.

“We’re all trying to come together as one and play that sport that we all love.”

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