Socceroos and Celtic star Tom Rogic says a Canberra A-League club is vital to stop talented players like him missing out on a chance to play at the highest level.
He backed Canberra's bid for the A-League today and says his roundabout route to the top is proof of how crucial it is to bring a top tier team to the area.
Rogic only broke into professional football after winning Nike's The Chance competition which plucked eight players out of 75,000 hopefuls worldwide and gave them an chance to train full-time at the Nike Academy.
Rogic said it is now time for the capital to be represented in the A-League – and hopes the Canberra and Capital Region bid will be given the nod.
“I would love to see a team from the Canberra region,” Rogic said. “The area is very strong in terms of players, fans and facilities and there is such a strong football culture.
“If you come from Canberra, it is very, very hard to break into professional football, and a lot of talented players miss out.
“Canberra has a history of producing good footballers and I believe that having a team in the A-League would definitely help produce more professional Australian players.
“My pathway to Celtic was unorthodox through the Nike Academy competition and then the Central Coast Mariners.
"If there was a Canberra A-League team when I was working to make a career out of football I strongly believe this pathway would have been different.”
Bid Organiser Bede Gahan said he was delighted to have Rogic’s support.
“Tom is not only one of the Socceroos’ best players, he is a great ambassador for the region,” Gahan said. "Tom was born in Canberra and played football here.
“He shows why football benefits from the A-League having a broad geographical coverage, and not just about providing opportunities for kids in big cities."
Gahan supported Rogic’s claim that the lack of an A-League team in the region made it hard for local players to get an opportunity.
“This region has always been a breeding ground for elite talent,” he said.
Since January this year Canberra players Leo Mazis and George Timotheou have signed with Celtic and Schalke 04 respectively after failing to find an opportunity in the A-League.
Rogic’s connection to the bid comes through Canberra-based former Socceroo Andy Bernal who now works as a coach and player agent and is helping advise the bid on its football operations.
Bernal added: “Absolutely there is professional football talent in this region, I’ve seen it myself.
"We need to give them a pathway to excel.”