Friday, 18 April 2008

Canberra soccer season kicks off with thousands on the team

Canberra soccer season kicks off with thousands on the team
By Merryn Sherwood

Canberra Times journalist Merryn Sherwood wrote one of the best football season openers I've ever seen in Canberra. A few people have requested the whole article.
Merryn has kindly agreed for me to republish it here.

Full article below.

Canberra soccer season kicks off with thousands on the team
By Merryn Sherwood
The cool kids at school never used to play soccer.

Boys played rugby or AFL. Girls in winter played netball.

But this year Capital Football will have more than 17,000 registered players across the men's, women's and junior leagues. There are likely to be 12,000 juniors kicking around the round ball.

''We've generally had a growth of around 3 to 4 per cent. In the last couple of years, I think thanks to the interest from the World Cup and the Matildas, it's been up around 6 to 8 per cent,'' junior league manager Alasdair Grocock said.

Two of Woden Valley's new recruits, Johnny and Connor McKenna, aren't new to soccer, but they are to Canberra.

After moving from San Francisco in January, mum Linda has signed Connor, 8 and Johnny, 5, up for teams as well as coaching Johnny's under-7s.

''In America it was quite competitive, it seems to be a bit more relaxed here and easy for the parents to get involved,'' Ms McKenna said.

Tanya Katsoulis signed up her two boys this year, Nicholas, 4, in pee-wee soccer with Belnorth Football Club, where she will be the coach, and Mikey, 7, for his second year.'

'I think compared to the likes of rugby, nothing against rugby, but as a parent, there is less chance of injury and I think it's just a safe, friendly game,'' Ms Katsoulis said. ''And Belnorth is such a family-orientated club, it's great.'

'Capital Football chief executive officer Heather Reid believes this is why soccer is flying.

''We are the only football code with a whole family approach to participation boys, girls, men, women,'' Reid said.

Ashley O'Connell, 12, of Kambah, is jumping out of her skin in anticipation of her first season at Woden.

Her mum Sally had previously ruled it out, based on a hectic schedule of jazz dancing, gymnastics and little athletics.

''As far as Ashley's concerned, she'd give anything a go, she's just so keen,'' she said.

''But her previous school had a futsal team in a tournament and she played it that, and she was just hooked.''

''They've had those classes in rugby or AFL at school ... it's all about soccer now, it seems to be the 'in thing','' Ms O'Connell said. There are more juniors playing soccer than Australian football, rugby league and rugby union and it also has the largest number of women of any football code played in Canberra.

This year the men's league which starts this Saturday around Canberra has grown to 10 divisions, up from nine, not including three Premier League competitions.

The ACT is also the only state or territory in Australia to have a dedicated masters competition.''The men's divisions have just increased exponentially across the board,'' men's league manager Ross Jones said.

''It isn't necessarily one club, or one area, it's all across the league.'

'And it seems to be a player drift back into the sport, ex-junior players who are coming back in again.''One of those is Tim Saisell, who hadn't played for 12 years, but this year organised a team of workmates from the National Sports Club in Lyneham to form Belwests' State League 9 men's team.

''About six of us have played proper outdoor soccer before, but we all love playing soccer and thought it would be a bit of fun,'' he said.Reid said facilities were approaching bursting point.

''Our biggest concern at the moment is access to grounds. We are at a maximum capacity with facilities,'' she said.``We are looking to sit down with the government to look at what other grounds are available. We are particularly looking for grounds not allocated to football and seeing if we can use them next year.''

In 2008, let the games begin.


Andy said...

Tim Saisell running about on a football pitch? Would not like to see that. Parents would have to sheild their children's eyes and they'd want to have a defibrilator on hand for the big bloke's ticker which would be just gone within the first 5 minutes. Fact.

Eamonn said...

Have you seen the new Tim, after pre-season training...

He'll be up for it!

Concentrate on your own game Andy, word is your lacking a bit of pace yourself these days:)