New facility puts Guernsey in a different league

Community, Guernsey

Guernsey has a long history of football, dating back to as far as 1893, when the Guernsey Football Association was first established. Since then a number of local players have graced the stage at national level, arguably the most famous of whom being Matt Le Tissier who played for Southampton and England.

The island continues to produce elite players, two currently playing for England and another three for national teams. Now, however, local training has taken on a whole new dimension in the shape of a dedicated high tech football arena – Aztech Soccer.

The arena was the brainchild and life-long dream of owner Rob Jones, which he now runs with his business partner, Tony Vance. Rob’s early memory of playing football is kicking a ball endlessly against a garden wall with a painted goal mouth, but his love for the game crystallised when he visited Anfield as a young boy. He still recalls that feeling of utter amazement when he entered the stadium for the first time and since then, has always wanted to create his own centre and see youngsters react in a similar way.

And why wouldn’t they? The facility has both indoor and outdoor pitches, a café serving snacks and drinks and a contemporary style restaurant overlooking the indoor areas. But what sets the arena apart is the cutting-edge equipment in the Tech Zone – which is enough to get even those who are luke-warm towards the game excited and itching to have a go.

Visitors can either become members or ‘pay-as-you-go’ users (fees are extremely reasonable in line with Rob’s vision of the arena being accessible to all) and on registering are given a wrist band that tracks their own individual performance on the various pieces of equipment. Individuals can compete against their friends, other high-profile users or just themselves and all data is stored in the Cloud for their next visit. The equipment tests and improves fitness, passing accuracy, goal scoring, reflex speed and much more – all of which can be done without the need for 21 other players and a referee. With a wide range of challenges built into the kit, it will appeal to players looking for serious football fitness training as well as those who just want a bit of fun.

 

Rob himself has always been active on the local soccer scene, since he moved to the island with his parents at the age of 18. He played for many years for Vale Rec – one of the seven local clubs – and is proud of (in his own words) his Muratti cap. He now plays for the Guernsey over-50s Super Vets and following a 35-year career in the finance sector he has finally been able to realise his dream.

The biggest challenge was finding the right site and the search took several years. But once the purchase of the building was secured, the site was transformed from its previous use as an indoor cricket centre to the state-of-the-art facility it has now become, in only nine months. The arena opened its doors on 1 November 2022

If Guernsey hasn’t ever seen anything quite like Aztech Soccer, neither has most of the UK population. With the exception of one comparable centre in Bournemouth, Guernsey seems to be leading the charge, and Rob intends to stay a step ahead.

He and Tony have a close working relationship with the equipment manufacturers ESA, so will be made aware of the latest technological developments, but for now he is delighted to be ahead of the game and sees that as a real feather in Guernsey’s cap.

As well as creating a training facility to develop Guernsey’s next generation of elite players, Rob’s vision is for Aztech Soccer to become a hub for the community. Memberships start from the age of seven years, but groups of any ages can hire the pitches and he is in discussion with schools and playgroups to develop usage during the day to complement the after-school soccer clubs. Corporate team building and social events are another potential target.

Part of his vision is also to create a safe space where young girls can come and train together. With local player Maya Le Tissier in the England squad, the girls have the perfect role model.

Rob is a role model in his own right and has created something amazing – a world away from a painted goal mouth on his garden wall.

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