It will be a return to where it all began for Sydney FC coach Frank Farina this weekend.
It will be a return to where it all began for Sydney FC coach Frank Farina this weekend as he rallies his troops and heads north to Cairns to take on the Brisbane Roar in a pre-season friendly this Sunday.
The former Socceroo and national team coach began playing in Cairns as a youngster before moving south to the Australian Institute of Sport when he was 18.
While he does not get the chance to head back north that often Farina admits he will always have a strong connection to the region.
“Cairns is really where it all started for myself as a player so it is definitely nice to be going back up there,” he said.
“It was a great time for me in the late seventies and early eighties as I was truly loving the game. It holds a special place in my memory and heart.”
While many might not see it as a football heartland Farina knows the area has produced more than its fair share of talented footballers.
“To have seen the likes of Steve (Corica), myself, Michael Thwaite, Shane Stefanutto and my nephew Zenon Caravella all come out of the area it shows you just how strong football in the region is.
“If all these players have come out of the area then it must be worth promoting and helping out with matches like this weekend's.”
The Sky Blues will take on Farina-s former club at Cairns' Barlow Park as both sides look to promote football in the far north.
“Without a doubt it is important for A-League clubs to make trips to regional areas.
“Personally having grown up in Cairns if I had had the chance to see stars from the likes of Sydney FC and the Roar it would have been fantastic.”
Despite North Queensland Fury-s tenure in the A-League being fleeting, Farina believes that the far north may one day have a top-tier team to call their own.
“I said it when it happened that I believed that Sydney and Melbourne needed a second side in that first expansion so I think we went to those two markets too early.
“I think that the Fury folding in their first stint in the A-League will impact their opportunity to come back in at some stage but I would like to think that an A-League team could survive there in the future.”
Fellow coach at Sky Blues Steve Corica also got his start up north and believes the area continues to show promise.
“I played in a small competition in Innisfail with only four teams before beginning to play up in Cairns where the competition was a lot stronger,” said Corica.
“There are a lot of Italians, Yugoslavs, Croatians, Greeks and the like in the area so football remains a major sport with a lot of young kids taking up the game.”
The trip will undoubtedly be a boost for football in the region but it will also be a chance for the Sky Blues to build on some strong pre-season performances both in Australia and Italy.
While the pre-season is about getting players up to speed it is also about getting your players through to the start of the competition unscathed.
“The pre-season is long, probably too long, but all teams suffer from the same situation,” continued Farina.
“Every club tends to pick up a few injuries so now we are looking forward to getting the season started. We hope that when everyone gets underway that as many of the top players as possible are ready.”
Farina is particularly hopeful to not add to the injuries the club is already facing as he believes the demands of his side remain high.
“Sydney is a massive club. Our club and Melbourne Victory are the highest profile clubs in the A-League and with that comes high expectations that we will do well.
“In saying that as a team we expect to meet these demands and do well this season.”
The key to Sydney-s hopes may again fall to one of the most popular figures in Australian sport in recent history.
“There was massive interest in (Alessandro) Del Piero when we returned to Italy with him and there is that same level of interest back in Australia.
“I would love for him to have the same season as he did last year and see him score another 14 goals and be involved in many more.“
Kick-off at Barlow Park between the Sky Blues and the Roar is at 3pm on Sunday, 22 September. Tickets are available at EventBrite
Farina-s men kick off the 2013/14 Hyundai A-League season on October 11 when they take on the Newcastle Jets at Allianz Stadium. Tickets can be purchased here from 9am, Thursday 19 September.