Australia’s first private school for footballers is hoping to unearth the next Harry Kewell after kicking-off its inaugural year on Monday.
The International Football School (IFS) opened its doors to 75 of the country’s aspiring Socceroos and Matildas on the NSW Central Coast last week.
Unlike other sports schools such as well-known Sydney institution Westfield Sports School, which the likes of Socceroos Kewell and Jason Culina attended alongside a host of current A-League stars, IFS is the first school in the country to focus solely on the world game.
The Mount Penang campus will cater for up to 350 students from Year 5 to Year 10, each paying $4800 a year.
Two hours every morning is dedicated to training as part of the intensive football program which is integrated into the school curriculum with full-time coaches working alongside teachers.
Coaches at the school include former Central Coast Mariners Andre Gumprecht and Bradley Porter, and ex-Matildas Julie Dolan and Joey Peters.
Founder and chief executive of IFS Paul Chapman felt there was a desperate need to introduce the school in Australia.
“I’ve come across a lot of parents who are passionate about the game and haven’t been able to find an atmosphere where it’s taken seriously,” Chapman told AAP on Monday.
“If you’re not interested in football you don’t come to my school basically.
“One main difference is that they do football every single day where most schools only do two sessions a week.”
Chapman said he modelled the school on similar ones he’d seen in Europe and while all skill levels are welcome, students are assessed on attitude.
“We really try to capture the attitude of the child and their willingness to be coached – that’s the key criteria,” he said.
“Technical ability doesn’t matter so much because we’re pretty confident once we get them in here they’ll improve pretty rapidly.”
Chapman, a Central Coast resident, said he’d always planned to base the school between Sydney and Newcastle and admitted having the A-League’s table-topping Mariners in the region was a huge draw card.
While not officially linked to the Mariners, Chapman hopes to build a strong relationship with them and fellow A-League sides and establish his school as a breeding ground for their future recruits.
“The goal longer-term is when the kids are getting to Year 11 or 12 we want the A-League clubs to be coming to us and looking at our kids and considering them,” he said.