Bunbury soccer duo Ben Steele and Charlie Betts are currently putting their skills to the test in China as members of the WA state under 16 team selected for the international competition.
Minister for sport and recreation Mick Murray and director general of local government, sport and cultural industries Duncan Ord were on hand last week to present the 18 boys selected for the team with their playing shirts.
The team then travelled to China to take part in the Jinshan International Youth Tournament, following an invitation from the Shanghai Jinshan Sports Bureau and the Shanghai Shenxin Football Club.
Mr Murray said having two South West boys selected for the team was a great illustration of how strong grassroots football is in the region.
“As someone who has been on a few myself in my younger days, sporting trips are a special experience and these young men will look back on this trip fondly for years to come,” he said.
“This is more than just a sporting opportunity.
“This is a chance for a terrific cultural experience in one of the great cities of the world.
“I told the boys to make the most of it and do the state and the region proud.”
Country Coastal Junior Soccer Association vice president Marina Quain said she hopes these two boys will continue to follow the path to success forged before them by Bunbury soccer star Josh Risdon.
“All three players started playing soccer in Bunbury as under six players and now Ben and Charlie are following a similar pathway to Josh Risdon. They are striving to reach the heights of their chosen sport,” she said.
“We are very proud of them – their respective efforts are another grassroots success story for Bunbury.”
The tournament, which includes representative teams from Nigeria, Bahrain and China, as well as clubs from Spain and the Czech Republic, runs from July 24 to 29.
The WA team, which was selected through a series of trials, will face off against Granada C.F. on the first day of the tournament, before meeting Shanghai Shenxin F.C on July 26 and China on July 28.
The competition will consist of two groups of four teams playing a single round robin with the top two teams from each group entering finals on July 29.
Between games, the WA team will travel to engage with local school students to learn about Chinese culture and sports.
The WA side is the only team representing Australia at the tournament.
For more information about participating in junior soccer in the South West, visit ccjsasoccer.com.au.