Nations Footy Cup ready to kick off

Lucas Sporle, Enayte Samadi,Tricia Devine and Ahsan Ebrabhimi (Ljubica Vrankovic)

The Nations Footy Cup is back for another year, with plenty of big names putting their hands up to be involved.

The competition involves players representing countries in both men’s and women’s competitions.

This year’s event will be held at Diggers Rest Recreation Reserve.

After having eight countries involved in the first year of the competition, it grew to 19 teams last year.

This year there will be 15 teams, with 11 teams in the men’s competition and four in the women’s competition.

Australia will have two teams in the men’s competition. Malta, Lebanon, Greece, the Allies, a World team, New Zealand, Fiji, Italy and Afghanistan also fielding teams, with the competition to be played across three different divisions.

In the women’s competition, Australia, the world, Allies and New Zealand will field teams.

One of the organisers Beejay Johnson said it takes a lot of work to put the event together.

“The challenge is sponsorship for the competition and players,” she said. “It takes nine months of planning to get the event up and running but we are proud of what we have built.

“It’s an honour to represent your country and get to do it with your friends and players you would typically play against during the home and away local season.”

Johnson said the Diggers Rest Football Netball Club, Diggers Rest Bulla Cricket Club and Melton council had been supportive in getting the event up and going and they were looking forward to partnering with them.

She said there had been a number of key sponsors that were on board including Kaos Recovery, Covelli’s Cleaning, The Eleet Caroline Springs, Sargeants Conveyancing and Burgertory.

Johnson said the role of Melbourne New Zealand Football Club president Eric Tom, who has been with the competition since the beginning has been instrumental in building the profile of the cup and football amongst his community.

Majority of the players come from Essendon District Football League teams while there’s a strong network of 30 umpires who are involved in the day.

Among those involved on the day is Ibby Taha, Omar and Zak Saad for Lebanon which is coached by former Westmeadows coach and now Richmond Victorian Football League assistant Mo Kaakour.

New Hillside recruit Robbie Castello is an assistant coach for the Allies, while former Melbourne player Russell Robertson and North Melbourne and Melbourne player Majak Daw are involved with the Allies.

Former Keilor forward Dean Galea is playing for Malta, while Hillside gun Josh Covelli is playing for Italy.

Strathmore coach Ron Sikora, who has been involved in the Nations cup from the start, will again coach the Australian women’s side.

Johnston said they want to eventually expand the competition nationally.

The cup is being held on February 25 from 9am.

Tara Murray