For the last three decades Salvatore Sottile’s life has revolved around the “beautiful game”, as it is known. For more than a decade he played at a national level and coached professionally in Italy. “I was born in Melbourne but when I was two my family moved to Sicily,” Salvo says. “I played as a goalkeeper in the Italian Professional League and played for one season with the National Italian Under-20 Professional League before turning to coaching.

“On September 21 of 1998, I arrived in Brisbane around midnight and the next morning I went to Mt Isa to conduct a coaching clinic, which was something very strange for me,” he says. He decided to stay in Brisbane and before long had started the first football school in Queensland.

In the nearly 19 years he has been in Australia he has become a highly recognised and successful technical director, achieving premierships with several clubs in both the Brisbane Premier League and National Premier League.

After visiting Toowoomba last year, Salvatore went back to Brisbane most impressed with what he had seen. “I had a look around the town and the region,” he says. “I found it very interesting the way people supported football.” This led to him being appointed as technical director of the Toowoomba-based South-West Queensland Thunder Football Club.

Since that time, his astuteness, experience and management acumen has made a significant impact on the performance of the 10 junior teams, three senior teams and five junior girls’ teams under his control as well as another 65 players in the academy. This culminated in a premiership for the Thunder Under-18 team last season in the National Premier League Queensland competition.

Salvo’s achievements have all come about as a direct result of his core values of passion, hard work, focus, discipline, courage, sacrifice, joy and belief in himself. “I believe playing football or other sports is a way of teaching children disciplines as well as

keeping them off the streets,” he says. “When you keep kids busy training and playing football after school they don’t have other distractions which get them into trouble or bad company.”

While the Thunder has already come a long way in the five years of its existence Salvo is confident the bar can continue to be raised. “I have been very pleased with the dedication and skills of the players in the region,” he says. “We have one 12-year old boy whose parents bring him on the long drive from Goondiwindi to Toowoomba three times a week so he can train and play. We have other players who come from Chinchilla, Dalby and Stanthorpe. That shows how passionate these kids are and it is a privilege to coach them.”

Importantly, with Salvo inspiring those under his direction to produce quality football, the standard of game being played by the Thunder teams is on an upswing. “Our playing is not too far away from that of the top clubs in Brisbane and we are improving,” he says.