QUEANBEYAN’S next generation of football talent was put through its paces by one of the sport’s greats on Tuesday at a junior clinic hosted by former Socceroos World Cup coach Rale Rasic.
The Seiffert Oval clinic, which was organised and run by the Monaro Panthers, saw about 40 youngsters take to the field under Rasic’s instruction.
As a 38-year-old, Rasic guided the Socceroos to the side’s first ever World Cup appearance in 1974 before going on to coach a host of club sides including the Canberra Cosmos from 1997-99.
Since stepping down from senior coaching roles over a decade ago, Rasic has turned his attention toward fostering the development of young players, particularly those in rural and country areas.
“Not many of the best players come from places like Melbourne, Sydney or Adelaide,” Rasic said. “They all come from the country from places like…Queanbeyan. If we paid more attention to the kids in the country, we wouldn’t be losing thousands of them to the other codes.”
In a lengthy interview with The Queanbeyan Age, Rasic explained his determination to boost the code was driven in part by the Football Federation of Australia’s perceived failings in developing the sport’s next wave of international talent.
“Australia hasn’t developed one player of the calibre of a Mark Schwarzer, a Harry Kewell or a Tim Cahill in six years,” Rasic said. “In 1999 Australia reached the final of the under-17s World Cup, in 1992 we finished fourth at the Olympics. Those times are gone.
“This year we didn’t even make it to the Olympics. In six games to qualify for the Olympics we couldn’t score one goal. If that isn’t an indication something is wrong, what is?”
According to Rasic, an exaggerated focus on physical prowess was in part to blame for Australia’s inability to produce top quality players in recent years.
Instead, the 76-year-old said development programs should be focused on improving basic skill levels among the country’s emerging crop of junior talent.
“We are known for macho men in Australia,” he said. “I am trying to get people away from that to focus on skill. Young players in this country already have unbelievable physical qualities so why would you want to focus on how tall or how strong?
“We should be focussing on how clever. That’s what we’re lacking in developing young players at the moment.”
Tuesday’s junior clinic served as part of the Panthers’ summer academy program.