Australia’s U-23 men’s national football team have joined hundreds of national and international sports stars and celebrities and thousands of everyday Australians in pledging their support to Australia’s bushfire appeal.
With the squad commencing their AFC U-23 Championship campaign in Thailand tonight, Australia’s 23-player squad has pledged to donate $25 per player per goal that Australia scores throughout the tournament which doubles as the men’s qualification path to this year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Staff with the squad in Thailand and associated with the team have agreed to match the players’ contributions at the end of the tournament.
The final sum will be donated to Rural Aid at the completion of Australia’s participation at the tournament.
Team captain Thomas Deng, who plays his club football with Melbourne Victory in the Hyundai A-League and will participate at his third AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand after also featuring for Australia in China (2018) and Qatar (2016), said that the squad was keen to add its support to the growing list of individuals and organisations assisting with the appeal.
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“We have been seeing the recent videos online and also the media of how everything is going back home,” Deng explained from Bangkok.
“Us being so far away we kind of feel helpless, so we have come up with the idea of putting $25 per player (per goal) and also the staff got involved to contribute.
“As players and staff, we will be donating over $1000 for every goal we score in this tournament and it is going to be good to help out the people back home that are struggling.”
Deng said he and his teammates are eager to commence their campaign in Thailand.
“We are very excited to be here,” Deng added. “We have had a few months now to prepare and I remember the first day that we got together in Canberra, when Arnie (Graham Arnold) and Rene (Meulensteen) got us together and we spoke about where we wanted to get to.
“We have come a long way and we are very happy to start the tournament and we can’t wait to play the first game against Iraq.
“The last (Australian men’s) team that qualified was in 2008. It would just be a dream for us to get to the Tokyo Olympics and it would change a lot of our careers. It starts on Wednesday and we will take it game by game,” he said.
Australia’s U-23 men’s national team commence their AFC U-23 Championship Thailand 2020 campaign this evening against Iraq at the Thammasat Stadium in Bangkok.
Additional Group A games against Thailand (11/1) and Bahrain (14/1) will follow, with the top three teams at the AFC U-23 Championship Thailand 2020 (excluding Japan) securing a place as one of Asia’s representatives in the men’s football competition at the forthcoming Tokyo Games.