National Indigenous Football Championships director Bernie McLeod says the event will create a greater pathway for Aboriginal football talent to make it in the A-League and W-League.
The event kicks off on Thursday and concludes on Saturday in NSW’s Shoalhaven.
Twenty-four Indigenous mens and womens teams from across New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory will compete for national honours.
FFA figures show 6,541 Indigenous footballers are registered to clubs around the country and McLeod said the Championships could unveil a potential A-League star.
“If we can create an opportunity for one kid then that would be fantastic and be dream come true for me,” he said. “Out of the 480 players that are participating if one or even two can go to the next level then we will have achieved something.
“We are trying to teach them that if you aspire to be something great then you can be the next Timmy Cahill or the next Jade North the next Kyah Simon or Lydia Williams. A lot of people look up to them and by coming to tournaments like this it’s reinforcing that if you want to get to their level this is what you need to do.”
When it comes to Indigenous players at the elite level football has some catching up to do on the other codes. Aboriginal athletes make up nine percent of the AFL playing list, while the NRL boast’s even higher figures of 12 per cent.
One of the championship's objectives is to increase participation in Indigenous communities.
McLeod said the tournament would hopefully inspire young Aboriginal footballers to stick with the round ball game.
“As soon as they hit 11 and 12 and they go to high school they jump,” he said. “Because of peer pressure they end up in the AFL and Rugby League in particular and we lose them and that is one of the things we want to do is change all that.
“That is how we plant the seed and that is why we are holding this tournament here because the players become role models. When they go back to those communities, where they be from Arnhem Land, Darwin, remote Queensland or urban NSW and Western NSW they will go back and start working on things.”
The event will conclude with a presentation function on Saturday night, where an Indigenous men’s and women’s representative team will be announced.
“It is envisaged that those teams will tour New Zealand to play against the Maori’s and possibly Fiji in the first Tri-Nations Indigenous World Cup,” said McLeod. “From there if we get the funding we are hoping to go to the second World Indigenous games in Canada next year.”
McLeod added, “I want to show not only the wider community but to the rest of the world that that we are showing leadership in regards to our future and our kids and trying to embrace soccer as a vehicle to shine.”
For more information visite the National Indigenous Football Championships Facebook page: