Listening and learning

Tim Basile is a coach at Fremantle CBC Football Club and at teacher at Fremantle College. He says he’s inspired every time he hears about the life of one of his players Johnny Kuch.

Recently Tim invited Johnny to speak to students in the Australian Rules footy program at Fremantle College on behalf of the Stephen Michael Foundation.

Johnny grew up in a small village in South Sudan. A typical day began with work around the tiny family farm, particularly taking care of animals, before a long walk to school – a couple of hours in bare feet. “Where are you gonna find shoes?” Johnny explained.

School stopped for Johnny when he was 12-years-old and the journey out of war-torn South Sudan began – initially at a refugee camp in Kenya. In 2016 he got to Australia. “Making friends was hard,” he recalled, “New people. New country. New place.”

Things changed when he started at the Intensive English Centre at North Lake Senior Campus. “North Lake is a friendly place. It’s a good school.”

A keen soccer player, Johnny was at first not interested in Australian footy. But then former North Melbourne and East Fremantle player Liam Anthony came to the school for some coaching. It was part of the West Australian Football Commission’s multicultural program and Johnny thought he might give it a try.

“At first we didn’t know what we were doing,” Johnny said, “but then we had a game with Cyril Jackson and everything changed. We lost but I loved it.”

A group of North Lake students asked Liam about joining a real club and the connection with Fremantle CBC was made. “The environment at the club is an important thing,” Johnny said, “It was hard but there were friendly people there and they would tell you what you were not doing well and what you were doing right.”

Earlier this year Johnny appeared on Channel 10 News when the footy club presented him with a car to help him and some of his team mates get to training and games.

Johnny said he enjoyed speaking to the Fremantle College students. “I don’t tell them my story so they can think, ‘Oh that guy has had a hard life.’ No, that’s not it at all. I hope that by listening to me they might learn something, that’s it. We can all learn from listening to each other.”

He also enjoyed having a kick with the keen young footballers on the college oval.

Stephen Michael Foundation

See Johnny on TV