Friday, 9 May 2008

Weekender: Canberra Football building community

It’s Canberra Football but not as you knew it!

The Weekender this weeks looks at the changing face of Canberra Football.

Canberra Football is booming on and off the field. It wasn't always so. But as Woden Valley celebrate the opening of their new clubhouse on Sunday 18th May with Central Coast Mariners Lawrie McKinna, Ahmed Elrich and Sasho Petrovski in attendance, I took a look at the changes occurring across the Capital.

Twenty years ago, when I came to Canberra, we had plenty of grass, but few clubhouses, a few shared ovals and that was about it. People used to complain we had little access to football news, little media coverage and few resources. There was little sense of unity, or purpose.

How this community has changed.

Have you noticed the building that has been going on across this city?

Clubs across Canberra have been building. Not just Stadiums and Clubhouses but building community.

They’ve been building with pride; producing match day programmes that run to many pages, Internet websites full information, we now have TV Coverage on ChannelVision, Club Newsletters, Blogs, A radio show and more football, and football coaching than you could hope to watch or ever read about. There are intra-club tournaments, interstate tournaments and international events.

Here’s four clubs, just four, each leading the way.

Woden Valley celebrate 20 years as a club next Sunday. And what a celebration it will be. With a new Clubhouse to be opened, Politicians, Central Coast Manager Lawrie McKinna, Socceroo Ahmed Elrich will all attend. A celebrity football match, small games for the young, skill tests for the old, it promises to be a great day.

Belconnen United has the splendid McKellar Stadium. For men and women it is a great place to play and watch football. Last years Premier League finals pulled in over 2,000 people. The Stadium sets a standard for the City.

Not to be outdone Premier League Champions Canberra FC now has its own new Stadium. The club has produced possibly the most number of professional players of all our local clubs over the years. They have also invested heavily in new infrastructure.

Fomer Socceroo and Canberra FC player Ned Zelic, who has just secured the Georgian Championship and will play next season in the Champions League, turned the first sod in early 2007.

And recently, as the new season approached, I wandered in and found Club Captain Paul Ivanic, Technical Director Nado Spaleta working hard to get things finished. The place has a feeling of pride about it.

And feel free to take a look when you are passing the Deakin Stadium, it looks great with seating for 2,100.

Tuggeranong United are an old Canberra Club. As our city grows Tuggers has become a community with vision and confidence.

Club Captain Jeremy Butler impressed me recently on Nearpost radio as he spoke of building a club for the community. A man with heart, a man with passion. He told of the clubs charity work and annual events. He outlined the plans to move forward with Kambah Oval. Already the ground has a fence, next a quality pitch, a Clubhouse and more. Watch this space.

And of course Capital Football has big plans for Hawker Oval. The ACT Government promised new lighting in the recent budget and a new pitch preparation.

The football playing community is exploding. We have talented people, very talented people, from all walks of life in our midst.

Businessmen and women, politicians, journalists professors, tradespeople and children all playing the game. All involved in some way in their local club.

Woden Valley has set a standard for overseas trips for the young. In this city,in this area, they clearly lead the way. Their approach to football development has also to be applauded. They are well advanced with Small Sided Games introduction; their desire to teach and improve our children’s football experience and all round development is exciting to see.

When the people of Woden Valley enjoy their twenty year celebration on May 18th they are doing something more than playing football.

Like the other clubs around the region they are building community, building a future. Football has always been so much more than a game. Canberra football clubs have clearly recognised this.

And I know some other club have plans to build.Some are further advanced than others. If you'd like to put me right or highlight what your club is up to, please drop me an email.

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