High profile opponents targeted for Bahrain's Ballarat stay

AFC General Secretary Dato' Alex Soosay holds up the name of Bahrain during the final draw for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup draw in Sydney in March.

AFC General Secretary Dato' Alex Soosay holds up the name of Bahrain during the final draw for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup draw in Sydney in March.

KEY figures in bringing Bahrain to Ballarat for an Asian Cup pre-competition camp already have a new goal in their sights.

Luring other high profile teams for friendly matches in the lead-up to the 2015 tournament is now the aim for City of Ballarat executive of major project delivery and communications Jeff Pulford and Back the Bid chairman Duncan Smith.

Bahrain will stay at Novotel Forest Resort in Creswick and train at the new Ballarat Regional Soccer Facility between December 22, 2014 and January 7, 2015.

This comes ahead of their first Asian Cup pool match against Iran on January 11.

Both Pulford and Smith are hopeful one of Bahrain’s Asian Cup opponents will travel to play in a practice match before the tournament.

“(Bahrain) wants to play a couple of friendly matches and the prospects of getting either an National Premier Leagues team or another international team in a friendly match here is really what we are aiming at,” Pulford said.

“That’s the next step. We will be working really hard with the Bahrainis. 

“They are having discussions with other teams about friendly matches and we would be pretty excited to get them up here. That’s the next target.”

Smith, who first initiated the idea of bringing a team to Ballarat before the Asian Cup was even confirmed for Australia, said luring an A-League team might also be a possibility.

“We are not sure what is going to happen with the A-League, whether it is going to be suspended during the Asian Cup or not.

“If it is or just before the Asian Cup there is the possibility to get Melbourne Heart or Melbourne Victory playing against Bahrain, which would be a couple of great games,” Smith said at Friday’s announcement.

“But also there’s an opportunity for other nations to come up to Ballarat to one of the best facilities in Victoria and if not Australia and play games in the lead-up to the tournament.

“We want two or three games here leading up to the tournament and 10,000 coming to watch each match. 

“It would be very exciting for Ballarat and western Victoria.”

Smith said the Australian team was likely to be based in Melbourne before and during the Asian Cup and said they would have discussions to gauge its interest in practising in Ballarat.

On Friday Ballarat was confirmed as the first Australian city to secure a team for a pre-competition camp, where Premier Denis Napthine was on hand to make the announcement at the new soccer facility at Morshead Park.

tim.oconnor@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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