THE Stawell Pioneers Soccer Club has raised the profile of soccer in the region after hosting its first invitational match as an affiliated club.
The club joined the South West Victorian Football Association earlier this year and invited teams from across the region to compete. Teams came from Ballarat, Mt Gambier and South West Leagues, Horsham, and interstate from Bordertown and Naracoorte for the event, held over last weekend.
"Nine teams participated after Ararat pulled out on the morning of play, causing some late scheduling changes to one of the groups," club development officer Rob Lembo said.
The Pioneers won one, drew one and lost two matches, finishing third in their group.
"After a slow start with two losses, Stawell finished the day strongly with a draw and win against Warrnambool Rangers B," Lembo said. "Great Western also competed well with some narrow losses and an exciting 1:1 draw against a Horsham based team."
There was some surprise new talent on show as well.
"Arriving after the break, new player Abdulla Abdulla was the star of the day, showing deft ball skills, booting three goals and bringing other players into the game," Lembo said. "Abdulla has played high level soccer in Melbourne and recently started work in town as a pharmacist, so the club is very keen to sign him up for next season."
Lembo said the event was part of a broader strategy to bring more soccer to the region.
"We are really trying to work with Football Victoria to grow and expand the sport," he said. "Ultimately we'd like to see a northern conference in the league so there'd be less travel. It (soccer) struggles in the bush traditionally.
"What we find is a lot of kids in schools do it and enjoy it but there isn't a pathway, so they steer towards other sports like football or cricket. We've run some clinics in schools this year and what we're trying to do is get under 14s and 16s as well as 12s involved. Our mission is to have more junior involvement to grow the sport."
Lembo said the club was pleased with the level of support shown on the day.
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