Region still friendly to Socceroos

WIN Sports and Entertainment Centres officials and the region’s top football brass remain keen to roll out the welcome mat for a Socceroos friendly, despite their latest bid to bring Holger Osieck’s side to the city going amiss.

WSEC officials and Football Federation Australia powerbrokers had discussed the idea of bringing the Socceroos to town in March – days before their all-important World Cup qualifier against Oman in Sydney.

India had been mooted as Australia’s opposition at WIN Stadium, with the WSEC setting aside two potential dates on their major event schedule tabled to Wollongong City Council.

However, an FFA spokesperson said while it was not 100percent confirmed, Socceroos coach Osieck is likely to opt for a training camp instead of a friendly for his travel-weary players.

WSEC general manager Stuart Barnes yesterday said the March 20 and 21 dates had been tentatively reserved since last year.

‘‘We’ve been holding the dates for about six months,’’ he explained.

‘‘It all came about after the Matildas matches last June. FFA loved what we did with the Matildas [and] the possibility was raised that the [Socceroos] coach might want to do a friendly [game] before the World Cup qualifier.’’

However, Barnes said his team had received an email last week with the disappointing news.

He admitted having a Socceroos match in Wollongong would have been ‘‘the pinnacle’’ for local fans, but said his staff had not given up on the prospect and would continue to chase opportunities in the future.

‘‘We’re still hopeful something will come in the future,’’ he said.

Football South Coast chairman Eddy De Gabriele said the success of the Matildas internationals had provided opportunities to bring the Socceroos to Wollongong.

‘‘The FFA were very positive and very keen when they saw the response in regards to the Matildas that this region could actually provide those second-tier international opportunities for the game,’’ De Gabriele said.

‘‘Second-tier international games are a great opportunity for the South Coast, which is close enough to Sydney to draw the Sydney population, but also geographically centralised to allow those people down the coast and inland to come to the game and drive home in the one night.’’

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