When Michael Caggiano fronted the media last month to announce Canberra’s latest push to join the A-League he became emotional when revealing that his motivation was derived from a promise.
That promise was made to his late grandfather, Antonio Fischetti.
Antonio died in 2018 before the final Canberra A-League bid document was delivered.
History, of course, shows that Canberra missed out to Western United in Melbourne and Macarthur FC in Western Sydney. On the back of the rejection of the A-League for Canberra bid more than a decade earlier, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
But Michael made a promise to his grandfather that he would see that Canberra secured an A-League team.
“He loved seeing me on the news and the nurses would gather round to watch it with him, he just loved football,” remembers Michael.
Both Michael’s grandfathers were born in Italy before emigrating to Canberra. Antonio came from a poor farming background in Italy. He ran a successful concreting company which thrived in Canberra’s construction boom.
“He instilled a lot of ‘old school’ values in me including a strong work ethic,” Michael says.
Such is the closeness of the Caggiano family, Antonio would have felt the pain as well as the hope in having the bid rejected.
“It was crushing, but at the same time we were given hope. We were the only non-Sydney and Melbourne bid on the short list.”
There is another element to this story.
Michael could have walked away from pursuing a Canberra A-League licence after this rejection. He would have been justified, too, given the city has been left at the A-League altar several times.
“Canberra has been so supportive of my family and I wanted to give something back,” says Michael.
There is also a desire to provide football pathway opportunities for his three-year-old daughter and his one-year-old son.
Coupled with the promise he made to his grandfather, it is as strong a motivation as you will find.
For Michael and bid partner, Bede Gahan, it has been a labour of love for the past three-and-a-half years as they financed the bid themselves. They spent countless hours on the phone pitching proposals and travelling around the region securing support. They have flown interested parties to Canberra to look at facilities. No stone has been left unturned.
Momentum is back in the bid team with a sense of optimism that Canberra may finally get a side in the A-League to complement Canberra United in the W-League.
A consortium of investors from Australia and overseas and a wealthy Australian family has backed Canberra’s latest push.
Known as the Canberra Region Football Collective, led by Michael and Bede, the bidding group on the back of investor interest has submitted a new proposal to the FFA.
It has to be said that it’s not a proposal to take over the license of the Central Coast Mariners. Instead, they are seeking a Canberra team as a separate entity. They will need deep pockets.
For Michael there is optimism that he will be able to honour the promise made to his late grandfather.
Michael is clearly looking forward to the decision and he has enjoyed the process. “We’re closer than ever now. Previously the path was unclear. The engagement with the FFA has been great.”