Having a ball: Asylum seekers Mohammad Jawad and coach Essa Khan.
They were a group of players without a home. Now they are a team carrying the premiership hopes of their new football club.
''They are sensational,'' said Andrew Hirschhorn, registrar for the Newington Gunners. ''They're superb.''
Calling themselves Auburn United FC, the men - many of them refugees and asylum seekers - were playing at their local park most days of the week but lacked the means to register as part of a formal competition.
But after reading about them in the Herald, Mr Hirschhorn and the club committee were quick to sign them up.
Generous donations and offers of support followed stories in the Herald and on ABC radio, allowing 26 players to register with the Newington Gunners and another team to sign up with the Holroyd Rangers. Sponsors also provided uniforms and equipment.
Many of the players receive case management and support from Settlement Services International, which co-ordinated the donations. Chief executive Violet Roumeliotis said assistance from the community had been incredible. ''It's been a wonderful journey, a reaffirmation of what a lot of us know - that Australians are generous and good-hearted people … and don't judge people because of what type of visa they have,'' she said.
Playing in the second-highest tier of the Granville District Soccer Association's all-age men's division, the team has had a victorious start. Their speed and skill were impressive, Mr Hirschhorn said. ''Hopefully they'll bring home our first premiership.''
Goalkeeper Mohammad Jawad Mohammad Jawad is one of many players prevented from working while on a bridging visa. Football has become his focus.
''I will do my best for my club, for my team,'' he said, as the players passed the ball around at training. ''It's not just me. Everybody, the whole time, is very happy. We can say that we are part of the community.''
Teammate Omid Ahmadi said they trained five nights a week.
''[The Gunners] have given everyone a chance so we want to make them proud'', he said.
Coach Essa Khan said the team wanted to be part of the club and the sporting community for more than one season. ''We want to keep playing.''
Ms Roumeliotis said options were being explored to continue support for the players and others like them.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/newington-gunners-help-create-team-of-asylum-seekers-and-refugees-20140418-36w8o.html#ixzz2zN8gbd8P