IT has often been said that sport can transcend race, intolerance, discrimination and disadvantage, and that is certainly the case for one of the newest Port Adelaide supporters.

Like many fans of the club, Erfanullah Abidi was getting ready for a big September last year, but in his case it was not because of the AFL finals.

Mr Abidi was making a life-altering move with his family from Afghanistan in search of peace, safety and a fresh start in Adelaide.

He had never even seen a game of Aussie Rules football until he attended Saturday’s clash between Port Adelaide and Sydney, but now he is hooked.

“It was totally different,” he told as National Refugee Week reached its mid-point. “In Afghanistan we have different kinds of sports but nothing like this, which is very common in Australia.

“It was our first experience coming to a footy game and it was excellent. I really enjoyed it and we had lots of fun.

“My children loved it and the good thing was that we were supporting the team that won!”

Saturday's clash with Sydney was the first experience of AFL football for the Abidi family. Image: Supplied.

Mr Abidi and his two sons were given tickets to the game as part of an initiative run over recent years by Welcoming Australia in partnership with the Port Adelaide Football Club to expose new arrivals to the game and help them understand it.

While admitting he had not quite grasped the rules, Mr Abidi is eager to learn more.

“It was certainly different but Kate from the Welcoming Centre told us about the scoring and different parts of the game and it made us like it,” he explained.

“I really want to go and watch another game.

“My sons liked it when there were scores, especially when Port Adelaide scored goals and they saw some people in the crowd shouting; they were also shouting.”

An interpreter for Australian forces in Afghanistan, Mr Abidi fled Afghanistan with his parents, wife and three sons when the government collapsed, enduring three days at Kabul airport under the watchful eye of the ruling Taliban.

A short stay in the UAE and time in hotel isolation upon their arrival in Adelaide was a small price to pay for freedom and most importantly safety.

When we arrived in Australia, it was the middle of the pandemic. We were welcomed and people were trying to make us feel happy and welcome in Australia

- Erfanullah Abidi, Port Adelaide's newest supporter

“Everyone was friendly and it made us really happy.”

Mr Abidi’s first visit to Adelaide Oval on Saturday coincided with the finals of the Power Intercultural Program Carnival, played as a curtain raiser to the main event.

More than 370 students from 13 schools took part in the education program, which centres on celebrating the vibrancy of cultural diversity and encouraging inclusion.

As well as the football carnival, participants took part in a special cultural parade around Adelaide Oval as the AFL players prepared for the first bounce.

More than 200 different cultural backgrounds were represented amongst the student cohort, and that caught the eye of Mr Abidi.

“The most important thing I noticed in those games were that there were many people from different cultures so I can say that these sporting games connect cultures and connect us with others,” he said.

“It is important that children practice other cultures and understand and know what other ideas can come from people with different backgrounds.”

The Power Intercultural Program carnival saw more than 370 students from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds engage with the program. Image: Angus Northeast.

Mr Abidi’s sentiments were echoed by Welcoming Australia’s Campaigns and Communications Manager Kate Leaney, who was on hand at Adelaide Oval to help explain the rules as Port Adelaide ran over the top of Sydney.

“We see sport as a really crucial part of connecting communities and in particular for those who are new to Australia,” Ms Leaney explained.

“Sport is often something where you don’t need to have a shared language to share culture and experience.

“As Erfanullah was saying, he didn’t have to understand the rules or who was winning to be excited about Port Adelaide winning or for his kids to want to come back to the game.

“Sport has such an opportunity to be a place of belonging,” she continued. “There’s a sense of camaraderie and connection.”

“This partnership between Welcoming Australia and Port Adelaide has been really crucial to being able to introduce our newest neighbours to what is for many Australians a core hobby and something we talk about a lot.”