World game: Soccer legend Craig Foster with Page MP Janelle Saffin and Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Simon Crean at the announcement of the $2.5m soccer complex at SCU.
World game: Soccer legend Craig Foster with Page MP Janelle Saffin and Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Simon Crean at the announcement of the $2.5m soccer complex at SCU. Jay Cronan

Soccer complex for Lismore

THE Northern Rivers will be home to one of Australia’s top soccer training centres if Labor wins Saturday’s Federal election, Federal Education Minister Simon Crean and Page MP Janelle Saffin have announced.

Mr Crean visited Lismore yesterday to announce a re-elected Labor Government would put $2.5 million towards the long-awaited Asia Pacific Football Institute in Military Road, Lismore. The institute would be built by Southern Cross University (SCU), which has set aside 14 hectares of land and $1 million for the facility, to be run by a newly-created ‘University Foundation’.

The institute would take about two years to build – much of that time would go to getting the pitch right – and would sit opposite, but utterly dwarf, the Thistles soccer field. It would include five separate football pitches, two accommodation blocks and a combined conference centre, dining area and office block.

The start date for work on the project would depend on when the Lismore City Council passed its new local environment plan, which would provide the necessary zoning for the complex.

Football Far North Coast general manager Steve Mackney said the pitches would be of such high quality – and the region so attractive to visiting teams – that Lismore could expect to be hosting some of the world’s top teams if Australia won its bid for the 2022 World Cup.

Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster, who came up with the idea for the institute, said the idea of it and its close connection to Southern Cross University was to produce ‘not just future Socceroos and Matildas, but future Socceroo and Matilda captains’.

“They’re not just training to be great soccer players, but great people,” he said.

Mr Foster said the institute would help lift Australia’s presence in the world game and provide new diplomatic and business entry points to soccer-playing nations, particularly in South-East Asia.

The ability of the institute to draw in students from overseas had major implications for tourism and the region’s economy, he said.

Mr Foster praised Page MPJanelle Saffin for her efforts insecuring funding for the project.

“When I came to you a year ago ... you said ‘don’t worry, I’m a good advocate’ and you have proven to be a fantastic advocate,” he said.

Mr Crean drew a line between the institute’s potential for success and the National Broadband Network, saying super-fast internet access would be critical to the facility.

University Vice-Chancellor Peter Lee agreed, saying the institute would rely on the network to broadcast teaching to other countries and its ability to draw on the expertise of the world’s top soccer nations.

“You can import expertise. If you want a super-coach from Barcelona to teach a lesson you can use the broadband network for it,” he said.

Mr Mackney said the Northern Rivers in general, and Lismore in particular, was recognised across the footballing world for its enthusiasm for the sport and because of its beauty. He said the things locals took for granted about the region stunned visitors.



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