After brief presentations from Yarra City Mayor Cr Phillip Vlahogiannis, Melbourne City Football Club CEO Scott Munn and Yarra Young Citizen of the Year 2015 Wilson Poni, the squad of 24 young locals were presented their playing jerseys by Melbourne City number 17, Jason Hoffman.
“This launch is a flashback. I started in a local park like this, meeting people just like the guys here,” says Hoffman. “The boys ask me for advice, and the best thing I can say is enjoy your football."
Aside from rubbing shoulders with professional soccer players, the squad of youths, selected for their ability, played a game, showcasing their passion and skill.
Toyin Abbas is the Yarra City Youth Development Officer, and the man behind the concept. With a career as a professional footballer with the Melbourne Knights, Abbas understands its essential for these kids to be given these opportunities so they do not miss out.
“These sorts of programs are needed because these kids lack the support,” says Abbas. “But with the collaboration of a few stakeholders like Melbourne City Football Club, we are able to help these kids realize their dreams, get seen by local clubs, develop confidence and find other pathways into football like coaching.”
The launch marks the official kick off of the program, but coach Frank McGrellis says the program has been running for months to select the squad of 24 men aged 12-18. Having coached on the All Stars Program, McGrellis has seen the transformation young men go through when given the support, coaching and opportunity to develop their skills.
“These guys will be better people because of this program,” says McGrellis. “We set expectations for good behavior and this leads to these young men developing as role models and a change in culture.”
As Yarra City Mayor Cr Phillip Vlahogiannis, Melbourne City Football Club CEO Scott Munn launched the program with an inaugural kick of the football, the Yarra Pathways Program was launched. With one symbolic kick of the football, the pathway for these young men is heading towards the goals.