Social inclusion should be prioritised in junior football

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    In the wake of another FIFA World Cup examination, wherein the Socceroos’ lack of ambition and creative play has again been brought to light, football is yet again having to answer the same questions surrounding the shortage of youth talent, and the national team lacking a true identity.

    The sense of misdirection has only been heightened by the comments of former Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou, who referenced the lack of support he felt for his aggressive style during the tournament qualifiers.

    Postecoglou said the constant ‘underdog’ tag and competitive spirit with which Australia plays need to be developed and challenged.

    Youth football continues to suffer from a lack of investment and true development of both facilities and coaching quality.

    The increase in grassroots fees for junior footballers is yet another black mark against the administration of football wherein participation is dictated by whether parents are able to afford for their child to play.

    Ian Holmes the CEO of the Canterbury District Football Association criticised the hike in fees, “I don’t call it the National Registration Fee,I call it the Participation Tax”.

    Football’s greatest strength is its ability to unite and cut through social standings, which is slowly been taken away by the cost of participation. The FFA though are defending the hike in fees as FFA chief executive David Gallop has said the extra funds would help the programs for the junior national teams.

    Organisations though around the country are looking to challenge this, ‘pay to play’, base by giving underprivileged and new migrants to Australia an opportunity to socially connect through Football.

    The Cairns soccer Program is one of these programs which is run by Javier Suarez in partnership with the Australian Red Cross, PCYC, The Cairns Council, Cairns Safer streets, Centecare and the Benevolent Society. Javier himself is a Colombian migrant and personally understands many of the struggles that new migrants have moving to a new country including language and cultural barriers.

    The Cairns soccer program runs after school football games for kids 8-16 years of age in areas which in conjunction with the Cairns City Council are determined to be most in need. These needs range from financial disparities to lack of social connection within the community.

    The areas which are currently covered include, Edmonton, Trinity Beach and Mooroobool with plans to extend the program over the coming weeks and months.

    The program has also been able to build links with Local clubs including Edgehill Tigers and Saints Soccer Club who help cover costs such as registration fees, uniforms and transport for any boys that they take on from the program.

    The program has also been able to build relationships with local schools including Cairns West State School and Balaclava State School.This holistic model reinforces the key principle of the Cairns soccer program of a positive social experience regardless of cultural and economic background.

    The success of the Cairns soccer program has been able to create a broader project wherein other activities have been able to be offered including leadership camps and athletics. Javier though has not lost sight of the original goal of creating positive connections within communities, “If we can change the life of one child it would make my life”.

    Football within Australia yet again finds itself at a crossroads but if we are to ever truly create a positive identity through our football team, models such as the Cairns soccer program need to be supported and encouraged as football is a sport which should be enjoyed and inclusive regardless of social and cultural standings.

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    The Crowd Says (4)

    • July 19th 2018 @ 8:58am
      chris said | July 19th 2018 @ 8:58am | ! Report

      “Football within Australia yet again finds itself at a crossroads ”
      It does? How so? Is it going to fold if we don’t choose the right road?
      Participation numbers have never been so high. Whilst the A-League could do with a shot in the arm, that is but a minor adjustment to the way we do things.
      Cheer up.

    • July 20th 2018 @ 4:32pm
      Aethelbert said | July 20th 2018 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

      The key to the success of Brazil is their stars grow up playing on the street against anyone and everyone, without regard to skill level.

      In Australia you only play against other kids who have ticked all the boxes in some stale curriculum topped off by a huge paycheck, it’s too restrictive in who it lets in and doesn’t take into account the many different backgrounds you’re likely to face on the national stage.

      If Messi was a kid growing up in Australia he’d be told to get lost and play lawn bowls.

      • July 20th 2018 @ 4:43pm
        MQ said | July 20th 2018 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

        But the key difference is that there is an endless line of footballers wanting to join in whatever game is happening, on every street corner, back alley, beach, 24/7. The games never stop.

      • July 22nd 2018 @ 7:56pm
        lunchboxexpert said | July 22nd 2018 @ 7:56pm | ! Report

        I would argue that in Brazil, if you want to be accepted as a footballer then you are required to have grown up in poverty or near poverty playing endless games of football on the street. If you haven’t done this then playing football at the highest levels in Brazil is outside your “turf” and you are likely to meet overt or covert resistance to your involvement/taking part of the football cake(so to speak).

        So Brazil has a problem that, I think, in part explains its failure at international level over the last decade or so. Which is, it is not developing/including talent from its middle class and wealthier classes and because of this they are missing probably 3 maybe 4 players in their best starting eleven. This is a problem that has been at least 30 years in the making in Brazil. In some ways it is the opposite of the problem in Australia (and the US also).

        This is what I like about international football, it is competition between countries that requires those countries who want to be successful to look absolutely everywhere to uncover talent and then to have inclusive approaches to developing that talent.

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