Mark Viduka says the AIS transformed him into a Socceroos legend and is calling on the FFA to reinstate its Canberra-based program.
Football Federation Australia closed the Centre of Excellence, which catered for talented under-17s, in 2017 mainly due to the $1.6 million annual cost.
A huge core of the Socceroos’ stars during the 2000s, including Viduka, Josip Skoko, John Aloisi, Craig Moore, Lucas Neill and Brett Emerton – better known as the Golden Generation – came through the AIS ranks.
Viduka, captain of Australia’s 2006 World Cup campaign, said soccer again needed to have a presence at the Australian Institute of Sport.
"We were on par with the rest of the world in 2005, now we are not the same level."
— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) April 19, 2020
The former Premier League star at Leeds United and Middlesbrough believed the AIS was essential to Australian soccer developing its next golden generation.
“The AIS basically made me as a player,” Viduka told Optus Sport.
“It was sort of like being in an academy in England.
“We had so much intense football in that two years and I came out of the AIS a different player than I did coming in.
“Those guys who were there taught us how to play; how to play our actual specific positions.
“In our clubs, we’re trained by parents – and they gave everything – but they didn’t know these things.”
The centre of excellence was created in 1981, initially to develop players for the national under-20 team.