Ballarat has secured a deal to host Bahrain’s national soccer team in the lead up to the 2015 Asian Cup.
Announcing the agreement in Ballarat on Tuesday, Premier Denis Napthine said the team would train in the city for 16 days ahead of the prestigious football competition.
The team will stay at the Novotel Forest Resort, while having daily training sessions the Ballarat Regional Soccer Facility during December 22 to January 7.
“This is the first city that has formed a partnership for one of the great teams competing in the Asian Cup,” Dr Napthine said.
“The investment from Ballarat City Council the investment from state government, together with enthusiasm from the Ballarat community has stitched up this deal,” Dr Napthine said.
“It’ll be the start of a strong relationship between Ballarat and Bahrain economically and of course culturally.”
City of Ballarat mayor Joshua Morris said the agreement was finalised following four weeks of negotiations with the Bahrain National team.
“It is a great vote of confidence in the Ballarat Regional Soccer Facility, and demonstrates the benefits of seeking to establish a world class facility,” Cr Morris said.
An “exhaustive” international lobbying process involved the council, Back the Bid patron Steve Moneghetti, and the Victorian Agent General for the Middle East John Butler.
“We know Ballarat is a great training destination, and this decision further underlines that international teams recognise Ballarat as being at the top of the ladder when it comes to training,” Mr Moneghetti said.
AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 Local Organising Committee chief executive officer Michael Brown said competition for an international team was fierce.
“The Local Organising Committee identified pre-competition camps as an important opportunity for Australian communities, and today’s announcement highlights how a strong community can take centre stage in the lead-up to our event,” he said.