There’s a fascinating story behind the cheerful face of Noory Aziz. You may have seen him about the Sports Super Centre – he works out or trains here almost every day!
The 61-year old Iraqi Kurd played 26 games for his national team in the 1970s, before being forced to flee the country in the face of violence at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s oppression of the ethnic Kurdish people in Iraq. The atrocities Noory and his family faced bear not repeating, but in 1972 his mother gave him all the family’s gold and urged him to leave and find a new life elsewhere.
With no passport or papers, he fled across the deserts of Syria by horse and camel, then on to Turkey and eventually Greece. He met someone who was able to get him a job on a cruise liner in Holland, and when passing Australia he jumped ship offshore from Melbourne. After a one-hour 15-minute swim to shore, he started his new life in the land down under.
Initially he worked odd jobs in Melbourne until one day while during smoko someone kicked him a soccer ball. His skill was immediately obvious and before long word spread, and he was headhunted by Hobart Olympia Football Club where he began playing professionally.
After blowing the socks off the opposition in his first game, he woke up to find himself on the front page of the local newspaper. It didn’t take long for immigration authorities to catch up with him and start proceedings to deport him back to Iraq, where he would face certain execution.
Fortunately, his case came to the attention of then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who personally intervened. Noory was in the airport lounge waiting to board when immigration officials came in and told him he was free to stay legally in Australia.
He later moved back to Melbourne and married a local lass with whom he had a daughter. In the mid 1990s they found a block of land at Pimpama and have lived here ever since.
These days Noory still knows how to put a soccer ball into the back of the net in style, and plays in local competitions at the Sports Super Centre on Wednesday evenings and at Musgrave Park on Saturdays.