The Sydney Daily Telegraph’s Todd Balym reports today on how Brisbane-based Sudanese boy Aliir Aliir has been reunited with his African cousin at the NAB Australian U16 Championships.

Thursday, 8 July, 2010

When the Sudan war separated two sisters it was thought their families would never see them alive again.

In the mayhem of conflict one sister headed to Uganda and the other to Kenya, trying to save themselves and their families from the gunfire that engulfed their village.

But almost a decade later the sons of these brave women have met for the first time and reunited the family in the most extraordinary location – an AFL camp in Sydney.

Reuben Riak and Aliir Aliir were two strangers plucked from either side of Australia to play in the inaugural World XVIII side at the U16 national championships.

Aliir, 15, lives with his mother Zainab and five siblings in Brisbane after they left Kenya for Australia in 2002.

Riak’s mother Jamila is still in Uganda, but her 17-year-old son moved to Perth with another aunty two years ago.

They’re both recent recruits to AFL clubs in their home towns and were selected among the 30 kids that represent more than 14 nations in the World side.

They became friends during a week in camp, but it wasn’t until a conversation about tunnels on the bus ride home from Blacktown Olympic Park this week that their relationship took a bizarre turn.

“I knew I had an aunty who had children but I’d never met them,” Aliir said.

Aliir’s sister Yar had been trying to track Riak down in Perth last week, but couldn’t find him because he’d left for this footy trip.

The boys were oblivious to their connection until Aliir mentioned Sydney’s road tunnels were similar to those in Brisbane.

Riak asked if he knew a girl from Brisbane named Yar.
She had been trying to contact him because their mothers were sisters.

The words “she’s my sister” were barely out of Aliir’s mouth before Riak had embraced his new cousin.

“He told me we were cousins and I looked at him and thought ‘you can’t be right’,” Aliir said. “I thought about it for a minute and then he just hugged me. It felt good.

“I rang Mum and my sister straight away.”

The pair have since spoken to their mothers and relayed the good news to their families on either side of the world.

For Riak, he is no longer as lonely as he used to be in Australia.

“I’m the only one here,” he said. “It feels really good to have someone near you that you can visit one day.”

Prior to the discovery Riak had planned to fly to Brisbane on his next school holidays to visit new friend Aliir and try to track down Yar.

She shouldn’t be too hard to find.

Pictured: A chance meeting betweeb GWS coach Kevin Sheedy, Reuben Riak (left) and Aliir Aliir. Photograph: Michael Dodge.

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