With the National Indigenous Football Championships kicking off in South Nowra tomorrow former Socceroo Jade North has pleaded with the FFA to do more to assist Aboriginal youngsters.
The three day football festival will feature over 400 Indigenous football players from 40 teams competing for a $10,000 prize pool.
The 2018 National Indigenous Football Championships will also offer participants a chance to represent Australia against a New Zealand Maori team in the second annual Trans-Tasman Cup to be held in January.
Jade North played 41 times for the national team and was the first Indigenous player to captain the Socceroos.
He told FTBL that the NIFC was a vital pathway for young Indigenous talent.
“Being an indigenous role model, I have to get out there and promote the game and promote these tournaments,” said the 36-year-old.
“We have to show that we are here and we are ready. My role is to identify kids to give them opportunities to play football.
“You have to take small steps to get to the top. It will take years but you have to put some planning in place and mentor the kids and show them there is a way.”
Along with his Kickin with a Cuz Clinic, 16 teams made up of young Indigenous footballers will be participating in a Jade North World Cup Series.
The former Brisbane Roar star hopes a star of the future could be spotted during the NIFC.
“That is what this tournament in Nowra is all about,” he said. “We want to showcase these kids and the young adults that are playing the game.
“A lot of these kids are from broken homes and small communities.
“There are so many different pathways now and I just want to connect them with the right pathway to the NPL, to the A-League and hopefully one day we’ll see some more in the Matildas and Socceroos.”
Amongst the teams that have travelled from all over the country is a girls' team from the Finke Mission in the Northern Territory.
The team is made of students from Yirara College with players from remote NT areas such as Elliott, Borroloola and Hermannsburg/Ntaria.
Tournament Director Bernie McLeod revealed that Shoalhaven City Council had supported Yirara College with flights and accommodation to bring these kids to the NIFC.
“They love their football out there,” he said.
“It’s about getting these kids from the desert and remote communities to let them know that it’s all right to leave those areas and see what the rest of Australia has got to offer.
“The Shoalhaven City Mayor has also donated cabins for them to stay while they are here.”