A whopping 18 Western Sydney University (WSU) students are currently in Jinjiang, China, competing in the 2023 FISU University Football World Cup.
The 10-day tournament, which kicked off this week, sees 12 teams from 12 nations battle it out for the winning trophy, with millions of viewers expected to tune in.
“It is an immense honour to lead this group of boys, and to represent the university and nation at the University Football World Cup,” WSU captain, Thomas Dunn said.
“I’m looking forward to playing on the world stage, with quality fields and big crowds against top opposition in front of high-profile scouts and coaches.
“Most of all though, I am looking forward to travelling and playing with the team. They’re a great group of teammates turned family and I am excited to go on this journey with them.”
Penrith resident and assistant coach Callum Glass has represented WSU in football and futsal for four years, competing at numerous intervarsity, national and international competitions.
“I have kicked a ball since I could walk and my involvement in university football keeps my passion alive. I love getting to lace up my boots alongside my friends and overcome the challenges out on the pitch,” the physiotherapy student said.
“The culture and spirit of the Western Sydney University football team is well-known across all universities in Australia and extends beyond the final whistle. The team unity and spirit are like no other team in university sport, and we make it known when we sing our team song loud and proud, before and after every game.”
Team WSU have spent many hours preparing for the tournament, under the guidance of coach and ex-Socceroo Milan Blagojevic, who has been working to get the players connecting on the field together.
“The enthusiasm of the team has been impressive, and it has helped create a good vibe which has fuelled a positive atmosphere at training,” Blagojevic said.
“I was fortunate to go through two World campaigns and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, so sharing the University World Cup with the team is exciting as I know it is a platform for the boys to gain recognition.”
Jubilation is the word goalkeeper and WSU student Ryan Jenkins used to describe the moment the team won the Nationals title last year, which ultimately cemented their place in the 2023 University Football World Cup.
After months of hard work and anticipation, Jenkins said the team has their sights set on making the most of the opportunity and replicating the same success at the tournament.
“As someone who was born and raised in western Sydney, and now continuing to study in the region, I am feeling really proud to represent my home on the international stage,” he said.
The 2023 University Football World Cup wraps up on October 31. To keep up-to-date with the results, visit www.uwcfootball.com/en.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.