TOP SPORT: Alex Baker whips a ball in for Coutts Crossing against Nambucca Strikers during the Division 1 season.
TOP SPORT: Alex Baker whips a ball in for Coutts Crossing against Nambucca Strikers during the Division 1 season. Mitchell Keenan

Football kicks on as nation's top team sport

FOOTBALL: The world game's place as the number one club-based participation sport in Australia has been confirmed, with the release of the latest AusPlay survey by Sport Australia.

For 2019 up to June, 1,853,600 people played football in Australia comprising 1,084,200 adults and 769,400 children.

There was an impressive 18.2 per cent growth in the number of children aged 14 years or under playing the game and Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop said he wasn't surprised by the results of the survey.

"Football is a game for everyone no matter what your background or ability. FFA and the state and territory foundations have worked extremely hard to drive participation growth by broadening the football offering way beyond the traditional outdoor 11-a-side winter season,” he said.

"Across the country, there are now programs of Walking Football for the over-50s, multicultural programs for new arrivals and CALD communities, female-only programs including Soccer Mums and the increasingly popular small-sided summer football.

"These impressive participation numbers are being complemented by a clear career pathway for boys and girls at youth level, through to the senior national teams... there has never been a better time to play football.”

Northern NSW Football CEO David Eland congratulated the thousands of volunteers at the grass roots throughout Northern NSW for providing opportunities for people of all ages in their respective communities to enjoy football.

"More people played football in 2019 in Northern NSW than in any other season. The number of players participating in traditional club-based competitions has increased by 14per cent since 2015 and the number of registered female players has soared by a staggering 23per cent during the same period,” he said.

"NNSWF's new strategic plan identifies inclusion and diversity with women and girls a priority.”

Football Far North Coast general manager Steve Mackney said: "The Far North Coast region again surpassed the significant milestone of 7000 player registrations, with season 2019 confirming that football continues to be the sport of choice in this region.

"Female participation represents 27per cent of total player numbers, which is above the national average and provides an ongoing impetus to progress opportunities for more girls and women to participate.

"Football Far North Coast looks forward to another bumper season in 2020 with registrations to open on February 1.”

The participation growth comes as football enjoys an exciting month ahead with national teams of all ages and both genders in action at home and abroad.

This week, the Westfield Young Matildas (U-19 Women) reached the semi-finals of the AFC U-19 Women's Championship in Thailand and are one win away from the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup 2020TM.

The Joeys (U-17 Men) qualified for the knock-out stages of FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019TM.

The Young Socceroos (U-19 Men) have travelled to Chinese Taipei ahead of their three Group H qualification matches for the 2020 AFC U-19 Championship.

A record crowd is anticipated this Saturday (9th) when the Westfield Matildas (Senior Women) play their first game since the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019TM against Chile at Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta. They then travel to Adelaide for a second fixture against the South American nation on Tuesday (12th) at Coopers Stadium.

The Caltex Socceroos (Senior Men) travel to Amman this week to face Jordan in their fourth Round Two match of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM Qualification.

A fantastic month of football is finished off in style as the Pararoos (senior men's team for athletes with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury or symptoms resulting from a stroke) play their first international on home soil since the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. Canada are the opponents at Cromer Park in Sydney on Saturday 30 November.

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