Despite being faced with no games, no official assistance and no firm timeline of opening (otherwise known as 2020), one of Melbourne’s biggest community clubs made sure that a global pandemic did not mean a wasted year.
Fitzroy City Soccer Club was founded in 1963 and has since grown to have 220 registered players. In 2019 they fielded two women’s teams and expected to increase to three or four that before the pre-season was halted thanks to a national, then state-wide lockdown.
The club have had a long standing commitment to women’s football, moving their home games to Saturday nights after determining the best time for players and families. They provide kits specifically designed for women and aim to develop more female coaches. They emphasize that players of all ages and experience are welcome and President Dana Durkic describes with pride a culture that is “a safe environment for families and women, a family club.”
Fitzroy entered the year excited to focus on the women’s teams, “it was found that we needed quality in coaching and we did that quite successfully” Durkic says of their plans for 2020. Investment was made in the coaching staff to get the best out of their playing rosters.
After the season was cancelled, the club would not have been blamed for lying dormant. However Fitzroy used the time to improve the entirely volunteer run club. Usually, they would have struggled to balance these tasks with in a busy season.
"It allowed the committee to work on some things in the background” notes Durkic, “like the website updates, getting the Instagram page up and the new Facebook page.”
Commendably all Fitzroy’s sponsors remained committed, a TV was donated by one and offered as a raffle prize and $5000 was raised through a GoFundMe campaign. Without match day income, the club boosted merchandising, giving the community and supporters options to show their support.
When Victorians are able to return to the field, Fitzroy has the programs ready to go.
“We’ve got this opportunity to put our best foot forward and offer everything we possibly can” says Durkic.
The club has UEFA licensed coaches running skills based sessions aimed at boys and girls and through the KS foundation are launching an “all inclusive football program for children of all ages with disabilities” as described by KS' founder, ex-A-League forward Kaine Shepperd.
These achievements are despite the lack of any financial assistance from governing bodies, Football Victoria offered no refunds for the cancelled season and clubs were been left to fend for themselves in an already impossible year. “We’d love them (FV) to subsidise the players registration fees” was Durkic’s suggestion to help with getting players back on the field, empathetic that many families would have lost income this past year.
Like all community football clubs, Fitzroy Soccer Club is run by passion and commitment and like all community clubs times they have faced huge difficulties in 2020. Nobody in football has had an easy year but Fitzroy have attacked this challenge like a near post corner.
Match day will return, the sidelines will be packed and finding somebody’s parent to fill in as a linesperson will once again be the biggest issue for clubs to deal with. Until then Fitzroy have put the programs in place to get people excited and keep them involved in their local football community.
No goals have been scored in 2020 yet, but at Fitzroy they have been hitting their targets.