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Illawarra-Based Sides Join Forces in Bushfire Appeal

It’s been a rough few weeks for rural Australia, to be very blunt.

The bushfires ravaging the country have caught worldwide attention, with donations and help coming from far and wide.

Elton John, Chris Hemsworth, Gordon Ramsay, Russell Crowe and Leonardo Di Caprio are just some of the celebrities who have financially pledged for the cause.

In the cricket, various Big Bash League players including Matt Renshaw, Chris Lynn and Glenn Maxwell are donating for every wicket or six they hit in the tournament.

Brighton and Australian national team goalkeeper Maty Ryan is also making an effort from the other side of the world, as are various Australian-born players in the NBA including Ben Simmons, Dante Exum and Matthew Dellavedova.

The list of those who have donated is very extensive and it’ll only get longer, which is fantastic, especially from those overseas.

One of the worst affected areas is in rural NSW, in and around the coastal area of Illawarra, a region of NSW that holds over 300,000 people and the metropolitan city of Wollongong.

In response to the horrific events that have dominated the headlines, Football NSW have joined forces with the NRL and NBL in hosting a round of golf featuring players from various codes.

Despite being a much smaller city than the likes of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Wollongong is a very competitive sporting city. The Illawarra Hawks compete in the NBL and the St. George Illawarra Dragons in the NRL.

NPL NSW side Wollongong Wolves, who recently won the National Championship against Queensland-based side Lions FC, will also partake in the charity golf game.

Illawarra Hawks guard LaMelo Ball, who has taken the league by storm in the few games he’s played, also donated a substantial amount at a time when the fires were still in their initial stages.

It will be an 18-hole game with every hole available to be sponsored for $1000.

It has been truly amazing to see the support received from across the globe in response to these bushfires. As a country, we always help our fellow man or woman when they’re in a sticky situation. It’s in our nature.

But sometimes, we need a helping hand and we’ve received a lot of those.

The fight is far from over, with blazes raging across the country at the writing of this article.

But with fundraisers such as this, combined with the selfless donations from millions, we’ll be on the road back to normalcy before we know it.

The full press release from NPLNSW that came out last Wednesday can be found below:

The Wollongong Wolves, St George Ilawarra Dragons and Illawarra Hawks have joined forces to announce a first of its kind Illawarra combined codes bushfire appeal golf day.

Players and coaches from the Dragons, Hawks and Wolves will convene on Monday, February 3 at Wollongong Golf Club to help raise funds for the NSW Rural Fire Service, Salvation Army Disaster Relief Appeal and Australian Wildlife Rescue (WIRES) following the recent bushfires that have devastated Australian communities.

Entry for a four-man Ambrose team is $2000 and includes an afternoon of golf, cart hire, food and beverage package as well as a post-presentation event and the chance to mingle with all your favourite players across the three different codes that represent the Illawarra.
Each of the 18 holes are also available to be sponsored at a cost of $1000.

Spots for the day are extremely limited, with all queries and purchases available by emailing partnerships@dragons.com.au or partnerships@hawks.com.au.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor hailed the bushfire appeal golf day as a unique and significant opportunity to raise funds for several special causes.

“The codes combined bushfire appeal golf day is one of several causes the Dragons have chosen to back in response to the horrific fires that have overwhelmed the country,” McGregor said.

“The chance to see your favourite players across Illawarra’s three main codes on the one day is an opportunity that cannot be missed, all in name of a very good cause.”

Wolves coach and former Socceroo Luke Wilkshire echoed his fellow coach’s sentiments regarding the recent bushfire devastation.
“As far as sport in the Illawarra region goes, it is great that we can support each other and work collectively,” Wilkshire said.

“To showcase a strong, positive message by bringing our different sporting identities together as one for a great cause is very important.”
Hawks coach Matt Flinn gave a personal affirmation to the bushfire appeal golf day.

“This is an exciting event that all three sporting clubs are collaborating on,” Flinn said.

“I’ve been personally affected, with family members caught up in the bushfires, as have many of our members and supporters within the south coast region, so this is a way in which we can help unite our community and raise funds for a terrific cause.”

 

Barcelona the most popular online club in China from Red Card report findings

Barcelona has overtaken fellow La Liga powerhouse Real Madrid to become China’s most popular soccer club online, based off Mailman’s 2020 Red Card report.

In Mailman’s 2020 rankings, it shows that Barcelona have risen significantly from fifth to first place since last year, mainly due off the back of their impressive growth on Chinese social media.

The club’s followers on Chinese social media platform Weibo went up from eight million to 16.3 million, a massive 104 per cent jump. In turn Barcelona improved on it’s engagement through Weibo, trending up 45 per cent from their 2018 efforts.

The club also gained huge exposure on short form video platform Douyin, with Lionel Messi’s penalty pass to Luis Suarez ranking as the fourth most watched video last year, accumulating 64 million views and 2.3 million engagements.

“[The award is] a testament to the effort, teamwork and innovation of all of those involved with FC Barcelona in China,” said Barcelona Board Member Didac Lee.

“Our challenge is to create content for China that is bespoke to the ever-evolving digital landscape, culture and habits of this market and we’re proud to be recognised for outstanding fan growth and engagement.”

In English Premier League standings, Chelsea are the most popular club from England and sit third in Mailman’s rankings overall.

There are two more Premier League outfits in the top five, with Manchester City and Manchester United in fourth and joint fifth alongside Juventus respectively.

City went up from ninth place in 2019 to leapfrog rivals United this year, while Liverpool are seventh, dropping down a single place.

The Premier League itself is the most popular competition with China’s digital community, ahead of the LaLiga which overtook the Bundesliga to claim second place. The German top-tier sits third, recording its lowest ever ranking.

“To receive this Red Card award for the second year running is a great honour and testament to the Premier League and our clubs’ loyal fanbase in China,” said Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters.

“We witnessed their passionate support during last year’s successful Premier League Asia Trophy in Nanjing and Shanghai, something that has been reflected by the growing popularity of our digital coverage in the country.”

Cristiano Ronaldo is the most popular player with China’s digital soccer fans according to Mailman, ahead of Neymar and Lionel Messi respectively.

It’s the second consecutive year that Ronaldo has topped the poll, being one of the few players to see increased engagement and followers on Weibo despite a decrease in soccer-related user activity on the platform. Neymar found himself the most followed player on rival platform Douyin.

“I am very pleased with this award. I know that I have a huge part of fans in China and it means a lot to be on top of the table for the second year in a row,” said Ronaldo.

Chinese fans have contributed many commercial opportunities for European soccer clubs, with an estimated AUD$98.9 million of digital sponsorship revenue still on the table, according to Mailman.

Despite a lack of funding and support, Arnold’s Olyroos are punching well above their weight

Graham Arnold’s recent comments on ABC Grandstand in regards to the lack of funding and support given to Australian football’s junior national teams, were laced with frustration.

He should know.

The Socceroos boss is currently fulfilling his second most important job and attempting to guide the Olyroos to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics via the AFC U-23 Championships in Thailand. It would be an impressive achievement should the former Sydney FC manager pull it off, with Australia having failed to qualify for the previous two games and only ever twice advancing beyond the group stage.

That reality is a far cry from the Olyroos inaugural appearance in 1992, where a creditable fourth place was achieved in Barcelona. Since, things have been lean. Until now that is.

Watching potentially the best crop of youthful talent we have seen for some time advance to the semi-finals has been thrilling.

Al Hassan Toure’s extra-time goal against Syria sent Australia into the final four, with all remaining countries well aware that there are only three spots up for grabs due to Japan’s automatic qualification as hosts.

Draws with Iraq and Bahrain, along with an absorbing win over Thailand in the group stage, preceded the victory over Syria. Now South Korea becomes the next target, with Arnold’s men confident and more assured as they move within one victory of a ticket to an Olympic experience.

Arnold’s frustration around the money and support given to Australia’s best young footballers stems from his immense experience as a domestic and international player, championship winning A-League manager and his current role as the mentor of both the Olyroos and Socceroos.

The 56-year-old made it abundantly clear of his dissatisfaction at having just two of his Olyroos with experience in and around the Socceroos squad; gaining experience and knowledge.

Opposition teams in Thailand are nurturing their youth, exposing them at the top level and preparing for the next generation of footballers. They do so by investing money and resources that in turn create more matches and tournaments within which their national team competes. That allows for developmental players to enjoy a taste of what potentially lies ahead in their careers; creating a fluid link between the U-23 squad and the full national team.

Both Bahrain and Jordan arrived in Thailand with six players having already been granted full national caps. Arnold’s disappointment lies in the fact that of his squad, Thomas Deng has just the solitary appearance for the Socceroos, whilst Alex Gersbach has played six times in full national colours.

Sadly, without further investment and subsequent opportunity, Arnold’s Socceroo teams will continue to be picked with limited developmental intention. The current reality for the Socceroos is World Cup qualification and Asian Cup play or bust, with an absence of further friendlies or tournaments for the manager to see the next wave of Socceroos perform.

When combined with the fact that many of Australia’s best young players are given only limited opportunity abroad with their clubs, it could be suggested that Australia’s talented youth is playing less football than many of their counterparts across the globe.

Despite Arnold’s concerns and the need to address the current structures and level of investment, the squad has taken a typically Australian approach to its work in Thailand, punching well above its weight and now seeming capable of winning the event.

Even without the recently returned from injury Daniel Arzani and the suspended quartet of Lachlan Wales, Nathaniel Atkinson, Brandon Wilson and Riley McGree, the team has gelled under Arnold. Nicholas D’Agostino, Reno Piscopo and Toure have announced themselves to the football world.

Tom Glover looks a goal keeper of immense promise, whilst Dennis Genreau and Connor Metcalfe appear to have a kit bag of tools that should one day seem them as important members of the Socceroos. With McGree permitted to play in Tokyo should Australia qualify, Arzani back into calculations and Arnold keen to increase the opportunities for a selected group of Olyroo players with a trip to the Copa America this winter, the future holds much promise.

No doubt Arnold will remain frustrated in the near future; desperately keen to see more of what appears to be an exciting wave of talent appearing in Australia. Vast sums to invest are simply not available in the current climate and shrewd management of resources is required to ensure that these young emerging stars fulfil their potential.

As for now, let’s hope they keep punching well above their weight, despite the challenges, and find their way to the Olympics for the adventure of a lifetime.

Football Queensland’s CEO Robert Cavallucci to reform Junior Development on the Sunshine Coast

Football Queensland today released a statement on the current state of junior development on the Sunshine Coast.

In their statement, FQ say that they have discussed potential pathways for women and girls to play soccer on the Sunshine Coast. Talks were held with NPL club Sunshine Coast Wanderers.

The statement in full can be found below, per footballqueensland.com.au:

Football Queensland (FQ) Chief Executive Officer Robert Cavallucci met with club officials from Sunshine Coast Wanderers on Monday to discuss future pathways for women and girls on the Sunshine Coast.

Following a review of junior development opportunities across the state, discussions were held around how FQ can support the club moving forward to strengthen pathways for women and girls in the region, including the National Premier Leagues Women’s (NPLW) Queensland.

Related Articles:

Football Queensland announce reformed junior NPL competition

Football Queensland welcomes new SWQ Technical Development Manager

Over the next few weeks, FQ will work collaboratively with Football Queensland Sunshine Coast Zone and Sunshine Coast Wanderers as the NPLW licence holders to grow opportunities for women and girls.

FQ will not be making any changes to the current NPLW licence holders on the Sunshine Coast.

Further details around the support package will be announced in the coming weeks.

*ENDS*

The Sunshine Coast Wanderers are the leaders in their geographical area for promoting the women’s game and making it as readily available as possible.

The club has women’s sides in under 13’s, under 15’s, under 17’s and seniors.

However, Football Queensland have clearly seen the women’s game and the junior side of that, in particular to be an area in need of addressing.

This is a great show of initiative from Robert Cavallucci and FQ. The women’s game is arguably as important as any area of soccer in Australia at this point in time. They have clearly noticed the need to maximise coverage of the sport in the state and we here at Soccerscene tip our hats off to them.

In recent weeks, some of our best exports have been making all the headlines.

Sam Kerr, who recently signed for English club Chelsea FC, scored her very first goal in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League (the female equivalent of the Premier League) in the Blues’ 4-1 win over Arsenal.

The win itself came as a real surprise as Arsenal, for all their struggles in the men’s league, are the reigning champions and currently sit second on the table in the Barclays FAWSL.

They are only behind Manchester City on goal difference.

It’s great to see Sammy hitting the scoreboard in England and let’s hope that this is merely the beginning for the Matildas star.

Fellow Australian Hayley Raso also made waves by joining Everton’s women’s side from Brisbane Roar.

Raso, who is from the Gold Coast originally, had stints at Brisbane, Canberra United in the W-League and the Washington Spirit and Portland Thorns in the National Women’s Soccer League (the female equivalent of the MLS).

Raso has been riddled with injuries in recent times and after moving from the United States, then to Australia and now to England, let’s hope she can make a splash like that of Sam Kerr.

Australian soccer legend Tim Cahill, who made his name at Everton as well as Millwall, made the announcement via Everton’s Twitter page. The video can be found below.

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