EXCLUSIVE: Former Canberra Cosmos star Ivo De Jesus says the ACT desperately needs an A-League pathway, more than a decade after his old financially-crippled club exited the NSL.
De Jesus, 35, knows the Canberra football scene well after three seasons with Cosmos in the late 1990s.
The skilful striker later played for local club sides Belconnen and Cooma and retains strong family ties in the region.
He said the area has uncovered a number of very skilful stars over the years but believed there could be more unearthed if there was an A-League pathway.
“The absence of an A-League team in Canberra, combined with the expulsion of Belconnen from the NSW Premier League, has had a serious affect on the local and junior competitions,” he told au.fourfourtwo.com.
"Canberra junior players need a pathway to the A-League and beyond.
“Canberra has a history of producing quality players and internationals such as Ned and Ivan Zelic and Ante Juric to name a few from my era .
“You look at Tom Rogic (Mariners) and what he had to do to find a way into the shop window.
“He’s is a talent that could have been lost to the five-a-side version of the game, had it not been for the Nike Chance competition.”
Canberra’s A-League bid boss Ivan Slavich met FFA CEO Ben Buckley yesterday to discuss various issues after FFA Chairman Frank Lowy put the capital back in the A-League mix
He said Canberra could still be part of the expansion plan though timings remain unclear, while a western Sydney project remains a priority.
After earlier prediction of at least five yearswaiting for Canberra - if at all - it could be as soon as this October if the FFA saw fit to bypass western Sydney and a refinanced Gold Coast.
De Jesus said the fans deserve to be brought back into the national fold, too.
And facilities in the capital were on par with other cities describing the Canberra stadium surface as “second to none”.
This was a view backed up by the Socceroos who played on the ground twice in the last few years.
“And in years to come further development of McKellar Park could see Canberra become the first club to have a boutique football-only ground,” added de Jesus
The striker added that the area’s grand final winning W-League team Canberra United caught the imagination of fans. In a similar way, if a winning A-League side had a strong first season, the fans would embrace the club.
But he warned that in fighting at board level must not be allowed to sour the potential of Canberra in the A-League.
“The people of Canberra deserve an A League team," he said. "It’s been far too long between drinks.
“If the business model and the community appeal is right, I believe there is enough passion for the game in the Capital for it to succeed.”
Although there had been Canberra teams in the NSL previously, Cosmos launched in 1995 with much optimism.
The club lasted six years till their demise in 2001. Crowds remained stubbornly low (around 2-3000) and the team struggled on the park failing to reach the finals in each season.
Former World Cup Socceroo coach Rale Rasic coached the side at one point. However with a cash injection, Cosmos were able to bring in coach Branko Culina for a brief time in 97/98, while future Socceroo Vince Grella played for the club in 1996.
The old Soccer Australia canned the club due to financial problems in 2001 and they've been out of the A-League loop ever since.
But now, there's a whiff of hope in the wake of the Gold Coast-Clive Palmer debacle.
“I believe the crowd figures could average 8K to 10K if the team is successful and plays and attractive style of play,” said De Jesus.
“Cosmos crowd always started the year at between 5K to 7K and by the time I arrived it was a tarnished brand due to board-room in fighting and ownership changes.”
And he warned: “Stability on and off the field will be as important as results on it.”
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