Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Indigenous Tasmanian junior side in the pipeline

Football Federation Australia is embarking on a 10-year national program to involve Indigenous youngsters in the game of Association Football.

The initiative was announced in Hobart on Tuesday by John Moriarty, the first Aboriginal ever to be selected to play soccer for Australia in the early 1960s.

Moriarty, who is FFA’s Indigenous ambassador for football, is no stranger to Tasmania.

He played for South Australia against Tasmania at South Hobart in 1963 - the match resulted in a 0-0 draw - and his wife is from Devonport and they frequently holiday here.

Moriarty was in Hobart this week to talk to Football Federation Tasmania officials about forming a Tasmanian Indigenous football team to compete in a tournament scheduled for Townsville in July.

“FFA are keen to get Aboriginal soccer players involved on a national basis where it hasn’t been done before,” said Moriarty.

“Although it’s a 10-year program, we’re having a national Indigenous festival in Townsville from the 4th to the 10th of July and we’ll be having Aboriginal boys’ teams and girls’ teams.

“There’ll be 10 boys’ teams and six girls’ teams and we’ll have a Tasmanian boys’ team representing this State.

“We hope they’ll be able to mix, which I’m sure they will, and see the standards and the involvement of other kids from the Northern Territory, Western Australia, from all States, and particularly from the bush communities.

“We hope it will really throw the book wide open, where Aboriginal kids can have an opportunity to come to a national carnival and, hopefully, move on from there in a selection process that will involve them with clubs at the State level, but also to link with the A-League clubs for the future.’

The program and the festival are being funded by the FFA and the boys and girls involved with the Townsville festival will be aged between 13 and 16 years.

FFT will be directly involved in the program.

“We want to ensure that the Aboriginal kids have very close links to FFT and also with the clubs,” said Moriarty.

“Hopefully, there’ll be a natural process where they can get involved and move up the ladder to better themselves within the coaching systems that are here.

“Hopefully, they’ll become involved right to the ultimate and, maybe, we’ll have a couple of World Cup representatives coming out of Tasmania.”

FFT CEO Michael McIntyre said his organisation was extremely supportive of the initiative.

“It’s a great opportunity to increase participation amongst the Indigenous community within Tasmania and be involved with the first national carnival in Townsville in July this year,” McIntyre said.

“It’s a great program with a long-term horizon of about 10 years and I think what it will achieve in that period of time will be tremendous for the community.”

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