Southern Courier 12 April 2010 by Leesa Smith.
Football Federation Australia has approached Botany Bay Council to use Hensley Athletic Field as an official training site for future FIFA World Cup events.
A self-confessed soccer fan, Botany Bay mayor Ron Hoenig said if Australia’s World Cup bid in 2018 or 2022 was successful, some of the world’s biggest sports stars, such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, could find themselves at the home of former Australian captain Johnny Warren.
Cr Hoenig said Warren, who passed away in 2004 after a long battle with lung cancer, had grown up in Botany and played junior football for Botany Methodists before carving out an impressive international career.
Warren made his full international debut for Australia in November 1965 and in 1967 he captained the national team for the first time in a match against New Zealand in Saigon. He went on to captain Australia in 24 internationals.
Cr Hoenig said preparations were under way to make Hensley Athletic Field in Eastgardens fit for the world’s greatest football tournament.
The field is undergoing a $2 million facelift, which caused controversy when the council revised the plans to include a synthetic soccer field and one less running lane for athletics events.
Opponents of the Hensley Athletics Field redevelopment, including former triple Olympian Ron Crawford, claim athletics has been left behind with the re-development.
“This facility would have been a great asset to the community but now it’s an asset to some elite group of people,” he said. “They have put the World Cup ahead of their community. We are paying the price for this World Cup bid which is speculative.”
But Cr Hoenig said Hensley would still remain a multi-sport facility.
“We could conceivably see little athletics one day and then the next one of the world’s premier football teams - the Brazilians, French, German, English or even the Socceroos, training down at Hensley when the focus of the sporting world is on the World Cup,” he said.
The Federal Government approved $45.6 million for Football Federation Australia to officially launch and lobby for the soccer World Cup in 2018 in December.
The money, which will be paid over the next three years, is to secure at least 13 votes from the 24-strong FIFA executive to gain Australia the World Cup ahead of rivals England, Russia, the US, Spain, Qatar, Mexico, a combined Netherlands-Belgium bid and a possible Asian rival, China.