1 March 2024

Canberra to host Socceroos in March due to 'current circumstances in the Middle East'

| James Coleman
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ACT Minister for Sport and Recreation Yvette Berry said many big teams don’t seem put off by Canberra’s smaller facilities. Photo: James Coleman.

The GIO Stadium in Bruce will be awash with green and gold in late March when the Socceroos return to Canberra for the first time since 2019.

The team will play a FIFA World Cup qualifier match against Lebanon on Tuesday, 26 March.

Football Australia said the decision was made due to the “current circumstances in the Middle East” after the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) indicated Lebanon’s home match would need to be played in “a neutral territory” and approved Australia as host.

The Socceroos will play two home matches, the first in Sydney on 21 March and the second in Canberra on 26 March, the latter chosen after discussions between the Lebanon Football Association, Football Australia and the ACT Government.

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The match signifies the return of the Socceroos to the nation’s capital for the first time since their 5-0 victory over Nepal during the 2022 World Cup qualification cycle in October 2019.

The ACT Government is excited about “great flow-on effects” for local football and a “boost to the local economy”.

“We know that Canberrans love football,” Minister for Sport and Recreation Yvette Berry said.

“The last game the Socceroos had here was a great success.”

Ms Berry denied Canberra was a last resort and said that while Canberra’s facilities are smaller than those in other capital cities, “every sport that comes to the ACT talks about the experience”.

“On this particular issue, we have gotten a silver lining here where we’ve been able to take advantage of a terrible situation … but I don’t think we should let the situation that’s occurring dampen the spirits of ACT spectators.”

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Newly minted CEO of Capital Football, Samantha Farrow, is confident thousands of local fans will turn out, despite the short notice.

“We want this stadium to be packed, and we’ve got a couple of weeks to do it, but I’m pretty sure we’ll get there,” she said.

The ACT Government and Capital Football are also hoping to welcome the Matildas back to the capital. The Australian women’s national football team last played here in 2022 against New Zealand after a nine-year absence.

“We’re continuing to talk about how we can bring the Matildas back to the ACT,” Ms Berry said.

“The last time the Matildas were here, we had a crowd of around 13,000 people, which is remarkable when we’re now seeing crowds of over 50,000 people elsewhere going to watch the Matildas play.”

Audience watching Matildas game

Plenty of love for the Matildas in The Dock in Kingston during their August 2023 match against Sweden. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Crucial to football’s future in the ACT is the Throsby Home of Football, a $33.5 million training ground currently under construction.

This will include five open-air playing fields, an indoor futsal facility (collocated with offices), a grandstand, parking for 301 vehicles and overflow parking of at least 200 vehicles for major events and various facilities and maintenance buildings.

Capital Football, which has contributed $4.545 million to the project, will also operate it. Ms Farrow said it remains her priority to “get it up and moving”.

Tickets to the Socceroos match will go on sale soon through Ticketek.

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Great. Another night of excessive noise.

Capital Retro3:49 pm 02 Mar 24

Due to the “current circumstances in the Middle East” .

Hello, things in the Middle East have been the same for 2000 years except now the narrative is being exported globally and given the free rein one side is being given in Australia it is totally disingenuous to say we are “neutral”.

What arrangements have been made for extra police to be on hand to shut down the “from the river to the sea” demonstrations there will probably be given the national capital is the venue?

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