Former Socceroo defender Andy Bernal says that it’s a national disgrace Canberra does not have a team in the A-League.
Bernal is a passionate exponent of football in the national’s capital.
Along with Tom Rogic, Bernal currently trains and mentors other Canberra boys including Sydney FC youth team defender Ben Van Meurs and new first team recruit and Young Socceroo George Timotheou at his Stockade Training Centre in Canberra.
The hardnosed defender also assisted Canberra Olympic during their Semi-Final FFA Cup run and believes the region deserves to have a team in Australia’s top flight football.
“It’s a national disgrace that the capital of Australia does not have an A League team,” Bernal said to FourFourTwo.
“I believe the FFA helps a lot of other cities and they fund and support a lot of other teams in the A League. It would be great to add football to the wonderful Brumbies and Raiders. People in this city if given quality sport go and watch it. They would support a team.”
Born and bred in Canberra, Bernal was a youth product of former National Soccer League team Canberra City before joining the Australian Institute of Sport.
Including Bernal, eight players from Canberra have played for the Socceroos since 1991 and the 50-year-old said that the region was a breeding ground when he was learning his football education.
“It was a fantastic environment because at the time Canberra had an NSL team that played out of Bruce Stadium,” he said.
“We had some Socceroos and three or four New Zealand internationals and old English and Scottish professionals. As a young kid you start ingesting and taking in a lot of information from all these wonderful players.
“It’s a real great lesson about football and the reality of football. That was a wonderful education. Going to the AIS with all best kids from around Australia, like Frank Farina was priceless at the time, it was the Socceroos football factory.
"The two years I was there we were lucky enough to play many tournaments in Europe – played against Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Ajax Amsterdam at under 18.
"It gave you a sense of where you lay on the football landscape against other players.”
Bernal also believes a combination of former Socceroos from the ACT and a competitive side would see a Canberra team be successful.
“Ned Zelic, Carl Valeri, Ante Juric and myself, there’s a lot of guys that would like to help and be involved and could add a lot of value to football in this city,” he said.
“Having a good football team that is producing attractive football, that wins and is chasing for honours in the A league – you would get 15k, 20k, 25k – you would sell-out Bruce Stadium.
"When the Raiders and Brumbies are top four or five they fill the stadium. Canberra’s population it’s probably not that big. But how many people come to see the Brumbies from the Southern Highlands, from Goulbourn, from Cooma way? People will come one hour, 50 minutes to watch football.”
Bernal added, “It needs to be on a political level where the government needs to fund things. Greater Western Sydney are given millions to play three or four games here a season by the ACT government.
“Canberra could add as much value on many, many levels as other clubs in the A League.”