World Cup fever has football juniors jumping
FOOTBALL: There's a fever sweeping the country and Football Rockhampton wants its junior players to catch it.
It's World Cup fever, of course, and the countdown is on to the international tournament which kicks off in Russia in the early hours of Friday.
Australia's Socceroos play their opening game against France at 8pm on Saturday, and Football Rockhampton is ramping up the excitement in its young brigade.
Vice-president Jeff McArthur said bunting, which features the flags of the 32 countries involved in the month-long tournament, would be placed on the clubhouse at Norbridge Park, the headquarters of junior football in Rockhampton.
The association bought two 16m lengths of the bunting which, when the World Cup is over, will be presented to one male and one female player whose names are pulled from the lucky draw.
The Australian flag would also fly on the main field at Norbridge Park where, McArthur said, about 1000 children played each Saturday morning.
"It's all about getting them excited about the tournament, and you can feel it in some of the teenagers already,” he said.
"It's important for our young players to know there is a pathway to the elite level of football.”
McArthur is also hoping the international flags will pique the players' curiosity about other countries and cultures.
He said it was fortunate that Australia's opening game was at the spectator-friendly time on Saturday.
Football fans can head to Bluebirds Football Club's Webber Park to watch the clash on the big screen. Entry is by gold coin and there will be foot and drinks available.
McArthur expects the Socceroos' opener to be an interesting game.
"France played the US and it ended up 1-all in a recent friendly so that bodes well for Australia,” he said.
"But you never know with the World Cup. Who would have believed that Italy and Holland wouldn't be playing, two traditional powerhouses in world football and they won't be there.
"I'd expect Brazil or Germany to go through to the final, or possibly Argentina.
"I have my fingers crossed that Tim Cahill can make history. If he gets a goal in Russia he will become one of only half a dozen players to have scored at four consecutive World Cups.”