Steve Hapwood, general manager of the soccer Institute, at Southern Cross University.
Steve Hapwood, general manager of the soccer Institute, at Southern Cross University. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Lismore kicks a goal

LISMORE is set to become the talent hub of Australian soccer with work started on the $15 million Asia Pacific Football Institute at Southern Cross University.

Earthworks have begun on the 14ha site in Military Road to prepare the ground for the first stage of the institute which, when complete, will feature a two-storey educational facility as well as several pitches, including one competition grass pitch and two FIFA 2-star rated artificial pitches.

The institute will initially cater for non-residential participants and provide opportunities for athletes from around Australia, Asia and Oceania as well as training people in the management and administration side of the sport.

"We've already had a lot of interest from Fiji and Cambodia," general manager of the Australia Pacific Football Institute, Steve Hapwood said.

"We are such great sports in Australia in most of our football codes, but we've never made it to great heights in soccer," he said.

"We have issues around developing young players in this country. We need specialist training and the institute will provide that."

The specialist soccer institute would be the first of its type in Australia and Mr Hapwood said it was hoped the internationally-renowned Escola system developed by Barcelona would be authorised for use in Lismore.

"In Barcelona promising players are trained from the age of 6-12 years in a specialist method that maintains their enthusi- asm and is not solely focused on the competitive aspects of the sport," Mr Hapwood said.

"The Barcelona team has 11 of their current squad who have gone through the Escola system, for example," he said.

The new Lismore institute has been on the drawing board since 2009 when former Socceroos captain, and Lismore local, Craig Forster got behind the project and brought it to the attention of Lismore MP, Janelle Saffin who then lobbied for Federal funding.

The land for the project is owned by Southern Cross University and has been dedicated to the project with the support of SCU Vice Chancellor, Peter Lee.

The $5 million Stage 1A is being worked on now with bulk earthworks setting levels for pitches and, weather permitting, this stage, with amenities block, would be completed by mid 2012 Mr Hapwood said.



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