NEWCASTLE Jets are set to play Chilean Premier Division club Audax Italiano at McDonald Jones Stadium on July 8.
The friendly is the start of a relationship between the clubs, with the view to Audax Italiano players joining the Jets on-loan.
Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna and owner Martin Lee met with Audax management in La Florida, Chile, last week.
McKinna, who has been in a Sydney hospital for the past four days after surgery on his foot, said the visit had been highly productive.
“The promoter still has a couple of loose ends to tie up, but we are looking to play Audax Italiano at home on July 8,” McKinna said. “It will be one of two games they are looking to play out here.”
Audax Italiano, who sit eighth in the Chile premier division, boast a large academy and operate by developing and selling players.
“Next January, we will look at the potential to get a player from there,” McKinna said. “They have one of the biggest academies in Chile. They are owned by an investment company who have built a big training centre just outside town and invest a lot of money into the academy. We watched a couple of games. There were five players in the starting side and five on the bench out of their academy. Ten of the eighteen were home grown. They got beat 3-0 by Universidad de Chile and the boy who scored three goals against them they sold to that club for $1.5 million. They have a big sell-on clause in the player’s contract as well. They develop players and sell them. That is how they balance the books.”
McKinna said players would come to the Jets on loan in a potential stepping stone to China.
“We are not going to get one of their strongest players, more so players 12-16 in that first-team squad,” McKinna said. “We would look to get them on loan and then try to sell them on to China. If they don’t get into China, they go home to Audax. Too often in the past, whether it is the Jets or other clubs, you see dvds but you don’t know the back ground of players in South America. Audax are looking to build a relationship.”
Meanwhile, the Jets youth team will compete in the prestigious Weifang Cup in China from July 23-29.
The Jets will be made up of players from the NNSW NPL and Emerging Jets programs and compete against the likes of FC Tokyo (Japan), Chivas Guadalajara (Mexico), Odense Boldklub (Denmark) and VfL Wolfsburg (Germany).
While Australia has a long association with the Weifang Cup - the Young Socceroos featuring current Jets Jason Hoffman and Daniel Mullen won the tournament in 2007 - Jets boss Lawrie McKinna confirmed that Newcastle’s participation was due to the strong ties that the club has in China.
“These are the types of doors that are now opening for the Jets and its players and staff,” McKinna said.
NNSW Football has agreed to work with the Jets to reschedule local fixtures affected by the club’s participation in the tournament.