Last week in Sydney, The Australasian Football Institute (AFI) hosted a fundraising event with Socceroo coach Ange Postecoglou as its guest and was attended by former Premier Morris Iemma, Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers.

The AFI will be a national centre for football and leadership studies to support the enhancement and development of Australian football and provide a pathway for talented Indigenous and disadvantaged youth. 

Veteran football broadcaster and AFI Chairman Les Murray said the main inspiration behind the orginisation was to safeguard former Socceroo Johnny Warren’s ongoing legacy. 

“A lot of people don’t quite understand what he was about they think he was about just promoting football, no he wasn’t,” Murray said.

“He was about enriching Australia, his country and his people through the medium of football. He wanted us to be citizens of the world. He wanted us to speak the universal language which is football.

“We want to uphold this legacy, this is why this whole idea was born. It was born out of the spirit of Johnny Warren.

“He’s no longer with us sadly and if he was here he would be doing this with us and that’s what it’s about.”

Murray said the AFI will be a vehicle for educating and enriching Australians through football related schooling.

“Now when people think about football education they think mostly about coaching in their academies and maybe getting a coaching diploma,” he said.

“But this is a wholesome approach of educating Australian children right up to tertiary level. Like football management, like football law, football journalism, coaching diploma’s, physiotherapy, sport science and all those things.

“It will start off with affiliations with primary schools in a particularly designated area in Sydney then one or two high schools, then a university.

“We will start as an online educational service then we will build a physical centre with football fields, lecture halls and dormitory’s, that’s the plan.”

Murray said to achieve AFI’s aims they would need funding from outside sources.

“We will need ultimately serious money from Government,” he said.

“In fact, the previous Labour Federal Government when Chris Bowen was the treasurer pledged us $10 million dollars but they lost the election and the next Government took it out of the budget.

“So it just proves that it’s possible to get Government support for this type of thing.”

The AFI will be supported by the Australasian Football Foundation with much of last week’s fundraising efforts to be used to provide a pathway for talented Indigenous and disadvantaged youth. 

“We will provide scholarships and underprivileged children, boys and girls, indigenous kids, refugee kids will be able to attend the AFI free of charge,” Murray said.

 “We will provide this for them because we want to create a pathway for them which goes beyond whether they can afford to do this or not.

“We don’t want to discriminate against an underprivileged kid who’s got the talents of a Pele or a Maradona but can’t afford to pay for a place in an academy.”