THE McDONALD’S Joeys Mini World Cup wraps up today in Inverell and tournament patron Rale Rasic can testify that it has been the biggest and best yet.
The 1974 Socceroos coach knows a thing or two about World Cups and reckons the mini version is just what football in country Australia needs.
“It’s incredible,” Rasic said.
“My philosophy on Australian sport is that 80 per cent of the best athletes come from the country.
“The ratio is 80/20 and no one can argue with that because I’ve been living in this country 50 years and I know.”
He points to athletes across a range of sports such as Mark Taylor (cricket), Peter Sterling (rugby league) and James Magnusson (swimming) as examples of country people who have become elite sportspeople.
Events like the Mini World Cup may help develop footballers into world-class athletes as well.
After the tournament concludes today, organisers will hand out scholarships to the best three field players (Germany) and the best goalkeeper (England) at the tournament which will include trips to Europe.
“No other tournament sends four players overseas,” Rasic said.
“Four kids from here get to go to Germany and England.
“They will see what modern football is all about.”
“No other tournament will do that.
“And no other tournament provides strips.
“34 teams and heading towards 48 and 50 and if we get there we will have to have play-off tournaments, qualifiers.”
Those numbers have grown in the three years since the tournament began.
Rasic said his great mate Heinrich Haussler does a wonderful job organising the event and said he deserves more help from football administration to make the Mini World Cup bigger.
“I’m not trying to be critical but the FFA needs to look at these things,” Rasic said.
“There’s 450 to 500 young players here.
“There has to be some quality.
“It’s worth encouraging the youth to play any sport.
“The sacrifices these parents make is something that should be applauded and encouraged by the FFA.”
Rasic is fanatical about football but also about education.
He says the two should go hand in hand, which is why he is particularly impressed with the Toowoomba Grammar program.
The school has been a big supporter of the Mini World Cup and has sent four teams again this year.
Having won the two boys’ title last year, they will be favourites to add more success today.
Rasic also said that he “can’t believe” how much Haussler does for Inverell and hopes the local council and community appreciate and support him in the future.