Neil Bennett’s life has been all about football.
For 53 years the game has been in his bloodstream, seeing him take up roles as a player and now a coach and volunteer for the Northern Redbacks Women’s Soccer Club in Perth’s northern suburbs.
“I love it, it's as simple as that,” said Bennett.
“I've played, coached, been a soccer dad, written about the game, hung up nets, cleaned kits, scrubbed out changing rooms, provided a shoulder for players to cry on, been a car park attendant, a scoreboard person, a linesman, and a referee.”
Born in the United Kingdom, Bennett’s connection with football was a blessing when he arrived on Australian shores.
“It helped me to form bonds and friendships with new people when I first arrived in Perth,” he remembered.
“The camaraderie helped ease the homesickness I felt and made me feel a part of Australia. The friendships I have formed have been long-lasting and enriching.”
READ MORE: Introducing the Community Bid Champions
Bennett’s passion for the game is one he is passing onto the next generation as the current coach of the Redbacks U14 girls’ team. However, it is closer to home that the passion has provided his greatest moments in the game.
“My daughter Carla’s involvement in the game has been my proudest achievement in football.”
“She started playing at the age of 7, is still playing and has represented her State at Junior and Senior levels and is now also in the W-League.”
“Seeing Carla run out for her home debut for Perth Glory brought me to tears.”
Carla Bennett still runs out in the red and black colours of the club every weekend, while across the other side of the Redbacks home ground, Celebration Park, her father Neil Bennett is encouraging the players that will follow in her footsteps.
“As a female only club we feel we have provided pathways for girls from the ages of 12 to women over 30 to play the game we all love,” Bennett stated.
“We work hard with the local council to promote the game, and with Football West. Watching the different players, the multi-cultural nature of the game is what is so special about Australian football.”
“So many players from so many different countries all bringing their unique ways of playing the game to Australia.”
The players at the Redbacks are big part of why Bennett has become a Community Bid Champion.
“I'm passionate about Australia hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup here,” he said.
“The dreams of many young girls will be sharpened if we win the bid. Many of them won't be able to reach the heights of playing for the Matildas, but all of them can join in and take part in the biggest festival of women's soccer in the world.”
On a personal level, Bennett is #Onside for a FIFA Women’s World Cup™ for the prospect of displaying the best of Australia and the local game.
“It's an opportunity for us to showcase the wonderful country we live in, whilst at the same time getting to appreciate the skills of the best female players in the world.”
“We are already seeing a tremendous growth in the game due to the W-League and the Matildas, so having the World Cup here would be a huge boost to this.”
“Seeing the different cultures celebrate the world game would show to people that we are all the same, and we all share a love for the beautiful game.”