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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

Manchester City "putting South Australia on the map" through grassroots football

Daniel Mullen has seen it all in his football career. From playing professionally at home and abroad, representing his country, and juggling teaching whilst playing semi-professionally. Mullen currently finds himself in a teaching role at Rostrevor College. The school recently committed to a partnership with English giants Manchester City. He recently spoke to Front Page Football about what he hopes South Australian football can gain from this affiliation.

Rostrevor's First XI squad celebrate clinching the SAAS Division 1 Championship. (Claude Beltrame and Rostrevor College)

Currently playing for Campbelltown City in the NPL SA, whilst also dealing with football in his teaching role, Mullen is as heavily involved in the sport as ever. Balancing teaching and his club commitments make for some fascinating encounters, with players breaking into local senior teams younger than ever.

"One of the first students that I did come across (on the field) was one of our First XI captains, David Preka. We (Campbelltown City) played Eastern United in a pre-season game, and I was marking him! I didn’t know that he was a student, and I hadn’t moved to Rostrevor yet, but he said, 'hey sir, I heard you’re going to be one of my coaches next year!" Mullen recalled to Front Page Football.

With his playing days slowly counting down, Mullen has become a mentor, which perfectly aligns with his day job.

"I got into my teaching degree pretty much straight after finishing Year Twelve and always had the plan of getting into teaching once I finished up and retired from professional soccer. So it’s something I wanted to do for a while," he said.

Over the past twelve months, Mullen has been busy moving to Rostrevor from St. Peter's College and helping introduce "Specialist Soccer" as a Stage One and Stage Two subject. His career has provided him with resources to aid his students' development.

"We have soccer training throughout the week, but we also have the theory lessons where I’ve been able to incorporate a lot of content that I have come across as a professional footballer. Things like nutrition, training programs, periodisation, injury prehab, and rehabilitation, as well as sports psychology," Mullen said.

"I’ve been able to draw on a lot of the contacts that I’ve made in professional soccer to provide me with some invaluable resources that the students are accessing as well."

Daniel Mullen playing for Campbelltown City against Adelaide City in the NPL SA 2022 Finals Series. (Image: Ken Carter)

Mullen has developed a strong partnership at Rostrevor with the college's first Director of Soccer, Terry Frangakis. After the recent announcement of its collaboration with reigning English Premier League champions Manchester City, a lot of excitement surrounds the school.

"This is not just for Rostrevor College; this is putting South Australia on the map. This partnership is the first of its kind in South Australia, and to facilitate these external clinics for all of South Australia, it is only going to benefit our soccer community here," Mullen stressed.

The program will begin in school for Year Seven students in 2023 and later expand to incorporate other age groups, but it does not stop there.

"We will be employing a full-time Manchester City coach who has been trained and accredited in England. He will be full-time at the school, and he will be teaching not only our students but also developing all of our co-curricular soccer coaches. This [move] is exciting for the school because it is not just the students that are going to develop, but the whole soccer community," Mullen said.

The exciting news for the South Australian football community expands beyond the college. Rostrevor may be a college for male students, but community clinics will encourage female participation.

"We can offer clinics to females [and] males, which is very important in today’s society where female participation rates are growing astronomically. I think we can see now what a special time it is, especially with the Women’s World Cup next year in Australia," Mullen added.

Along with that, the Manchester City Football School partnership will be open to students that do not attend the college, and clinics are being set up in the Northern Territory.

The City Football Group has worked tirelessly to expand its global reach. But Mullen insists that the school will continue operating as an educational institution rather than an academy, focusing on the person first and then the footballer.

"In terms of the community, we are not just looking at an academy; this is a footballing school. The values we align ourselves with; hard work, collaboration, teamwork, leadership, resilience, being good, honest people, and global citizens are things we will be developing in our students as a priority," he said.

Many will conjecture that Manchester City is plantings seeds in South Australia to poach local talent for City Football Group-owned Melbourne City. But Mullen emphasised that the club and the college are on the same page regarding the program's goal.

"The main goal is developing good people, good humans, and Manchester City’s values also align with ours. They also want to develop good, honest people that want to give back to the community," Mullen said.

"If we [can] develop great footballers as a by-product, then that’s an added bonus; by all means, that would be excellent, but our priority is developing those good people first; that’s what’s important to us."

Success will be determined by the quality of people Rostrevor produces. Mullen conceded that preparing the next generation for the mental health hurdles they will face on their way has to be a priority in today's society. It can translate onto the field.

"I think it is important that we develop these players and students so that they can deal with setbacks and disappointments [and give] them strategies, such as goal setting, to overcome them. This [partnership] will help them develop those skill sets to overcome setbacks, [which] is transferrable to everyday life. That is something that we can teach through sport and, in our case, through soccer," Mullen said.

Regardless of which way you look at it, it is undeniable that this partnership is nothing but an overwhelming positive for South Australian football. The sport continues to make inroads in the state ahead of a busy 2023.

The partnership may be between an elite all-boys school and one of the biggest football clubs in the world. But opening doors to the rest of the football community will help build positive relationships while exposing the next generation to elite programs.

Mullen stressed that the view is for a "long-term partnership". It is exciting for the hundreds of young players who will receive opportunities that would have been unheard of only a few months ago.

For more content surrounding local football in Australia, click here to check out our NPL page. NPL SA followers can also stay tuned for our preview of the competition's 2022 Grand Final, out on Front Page Football soon!


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