The greatest stories in Australian football always start in the backyard, the school ground or the local park.
Every career has the light-bulb moment when a youngster falls in love with the beautiful game.
I was reminded last week that sometime back in the mid-1990s, I was co-opted as the standby coach of my son’s under-7 football team in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
The usual Dad who took charge was away and I had to “coach” the team. I don’t remember much, but a friend recalls that one of my son’s team-mates went on to a brilliant career.
His name is Massimo Luongo.
I can’t claim to have had any influence on Mass in my two-game cameo, but at least I didn’t get in the way of his love for the game and determination to succeed.
On Saturday night, Australian football reached the pinnacle when the Socceroos won the Asian Cup, with Massimo inspiring us all with his stunning goal.
Being champions of the world’s most populous and fastest growing football continent puts us at the top of the mountain. It’s an absolutely phenomenal achievement.
For all those Socceroo heroes, the journey started at the grassroots. A new generation of five and six year old boys and girls will start the journey in the next month or so.
With 1.96 million participants football is by far the most popular team sport in Australia and the only one that never sleeps. We are truly a 12-month of the year activity.
The Asian Cup will supercharge that participation. We are forecasting a spike in registrations and interest in junior football, thanks to the Socceroos.
Our game is safe, simple and skilful for boys and girls. It’s also inclusive, accessible and multicultural – that’s why you’ll find football is a part of the daily life of more Australian households than any other mass participation sport.
Right now, we are in the middle of a month-long campaign that we call – ‘Play Football’.
This weekend, the ‘Play Football’ round in the Hyundai A-League will celebrate the strong connections between the grassroots and the professional tier.
Underpinning the registration period is Australia’s biggest sports database, MyFootballClub – www.myfootballclub.com.au
If you want to find a club and register your child, MyFootballClub is a one-stop shop.
The website has loads of links to other information on how to become a coach, referee or club volunteer.
This week, we launched the AIA Vitality MiniRoos program for 2015. It’s football’s new national program to introduce kids and parents to the game of football.
MiniRoos is specifically designed for kids; it is all about having fun, learning new skills and making life-long friends in a team environment.
The program will be delivered by more than 2,000 community clubs across Australia and in time will be rolled out in schools.
Next week, we’ll launch the 2015 PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues season.
The NPL is the engine room of Australian football, producing elite players who aim for the Hyundai A-League and our national teams.
It’s worth noting that 16 of the 23 players in the Socceroos squad who won the Asian Cup made their professional debuts in the Hyundai A-League and all of the coaches were home-grown.
Unlike any Socceroo team before them, this group is distinctly Australian-made which is a triumph for the game at every level. All these players started their journey at a community club and most progressed through national and state talent identification pathways.
The PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues is a crucial component of this journey both in terms of the player and coach talent pathway and is evidence of the national curriculum being put into practice.
These are exciting times for the game. Come and celebrate ‘Play Football’ round by catching an Hyundai A-League game this weekend. See you there!
Players, coaches and referees can register to “Play Football” by logging onto Australia's biggest online sports registration portal, which can be found at http://www.myfootballclub.com.au/
Get down to the following Centres this weekend to meet your Hyundai A-League heroes and get involved in some fun football activities.
* Adelaide United - Westfield Tea Tree Plaza – Thursday 5th February 5-7pm
* Central Coast Mariners - Westfield Tuggerah – Thursday 5th February 5-7pm ( Click here for more details)
* Newcastle Jets - Westfield Kotara – Saturday 7th February 12.30–2.30pm
* Melbourne City - Westfield Plenty Valley – Sunday 8th February 11am-2pm
* Perth Glory - Westfield Whitford City – Sunday 8th February 11am-2pm
* Western Sydney Wanderers - Westfield Penrith - Thursday February 12th 4.30pm-5.30pm
* Melbourne Victory - Westfield Knox - Friday February 27th 4pm-5pm
Check back regularly as more clubs announce their appearances.
Check westfield.com.au for more detailed information.