Hi, my name is Peter Cullen, and I am the founder of Reclink Australia.
In November this year my wife, Jeanette, and I travelled to Goa in India to attend a special AFL football tournament. The experience was better than I ever imagined.
It had all began with Lincoln Harris, a volunteer mentor for the Salvo (Salvation Army) Hawks, a team participating in Victoria’s Reclink football program.
Lincoln owns a travel company called India Unbound and was keen to share his love of this country with colleagues and at the same time, make a positive contribution to the lives of people who exist in unimaginable poverty.
By chance, Lincoln was kicking a ball around one day when a curious young Indian boy named Sumich asked if he could join in. Soon, many young Indian lads were joining in. Finding it difficult to explain Aussie Rules, Lincoln was able to show the boys how the game was played on his iPad. This created a lot of local excitement and in a blink Lincoln had a team of forty enthusiastic players.
Realising the happiness and inclusion this gave his new friends, Lincoln wanted to create something more for the boys and went about developing a tournament. Support for the initiative grew as Lincoln’s brother Rhan and former Collingwood Premiership player Gavin Crosisca, both being enormous contributors to Reclink Australia over many years, became involved. As more people joined our mission, momentum built strongly.
The journey from Mumbai to Goa in itself was a great experience. We had a whole carriage booked for our trips. Players and supporters and friends from Australia soaking up the energy and enthusiasm each day brought. The locals wanted to know more about everything AFL – the rules, barracking and chanting “Aussie Aussie Aussie….” the excitement on the first day of training was electrifying.
When the first goal was kicked in the first official match, the players and spectators were applauding and dancing, creating an atmosphere as if it were an AFL Grand Final Day! They got behind their favourite ‘team’ with players donning Cats, Tigers and Giants jumpers.
My first visit to India was definitely culturally fulfilling and humbling. To see, first hand, a positive contribution to the lives of people who have no choice but to live in the slums is confronting in itself. Seeing the joy just a game of football can bring, both here and in India is incredibly rewarding.
I want to personally thank Lincoln for making this experience possible, and to Rhan and Gavin for their valuable contribution.
We hope this inaugural football tournament is the first of many and would be delighted if further support from downunder through the fundraising holiday package is generated so we can continue to bring joy and comradeship to a community that so desperately needs hope for the future.