Caravella calls time after 14 years

A-League midfielder Zenon Caravella has decided to hang up his boots to focus on his football academy.

Caravella left the Newcastle at the end of the 2014-2015 season after not being offered a new contract by coach Phil Stubbins.

The 32-year old returned to his hometown of Cairns and has decided to call time permanently on his 14-year playing career.

“I’m ready to retire,” Caravella told FourFourTwo.

“I’ve had some time to think about a few options and consider them. Had I stayed at Newcastle, had I been re-signed, obviously it would have been a different story.

“But after coming back to Cairns now - I’ve got two young girls and they’ve settled - the thought of moving somewhere else and taking them out just didn’t feel right.

“I’ve started my coaching clinics up here, which I did earlier this year in the Asian Cup break, and it gave me a different love of the game. That’s something I want to concentrate on now. But it was a very tough decision.”

Caravella left the Jets at the end of the 2013-2014 campaign and effectively retired, playing six games for Far North Queensland Heat in the NPL Queensland. But he returned to the Hunter outfit last October for one more season.

The central midfielder, who started his career with St George in 2001 as an 18-year old, made 20 appearances for Newcastle during their ill-fated 2014-15 campaign.

Caravella said he wants to help the next generation in far north Queensland.

“I could never go cold turkey, so that’s why I’ll stay involved with the academy,” he said.

“It’s exciting because it’s the first of its kind here. There are no real academies. If teams come up here it’s very sporadic.

“My aim is for it to be a full-time academy and I want to give kids in regional Queensland opportunities that I never had, growing up in Cairns.

“I want to bring back ex-A-League players, A-League players, Socceroos to come and hold clinics up here with him and give kids in Cairns a taste of what it’s like to be a full-time professional footballer.

“I’m going to miss playing for sure. It’s a bit sad in a way, as it’s all I’ve ever done, but in another way it’s also exciting. It’s a different buzz coaching young kids and seeing them improve. I’ve really enjoy that feeling.

“I know it sounds like a cliche, but I really do want to be able to give kids something else that they normally wouldn’t have, that I didn’t have in Cairns. I want to give back to regional football in Cairns.”

The nephew of Frank Farina, Caravella played in the NSL with Sydney Olympic. He was part of the squad that made the 2003 Grand Final and took out the premiership. He also played in the inaugural A-League season of the now defunct New Zealand Knights.

Caravella spent two seasons with Dutch club FC Omniworld before returning to Australia to join Gold Coast United. He won the Coach’s Player of the Year award in 2010 and in 2011 signed for Adelaide United.

At the Reds he won the Club Champion award and then shifted to the Jets in 2013. In total the midfielder made 147 appearances in the A-League and seven in the Asian Champions League.

“I’m always someone who expects myself to do better,” Caravella admits.

“But when I sit back and look at it from a realistic point of view, I’ve done pretty well. I got two player of the year awards at two A-League clubs, I won a championship in the NSL with Sydney Olympic. So that was great.

“I’ve played in the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League, I’ve played overseas, so it’s all priceless things when I look back.”

In October 2011 Caravella was one of 20 players invited to a Socceroo training camp by then head coach Holger Osieck

“At the time I was playing with Adelaide (and) I had a bit of a heel problem,” he remembers.

“So (coach) Rini Coolen basically said, ‘I don’t want you to go to this camp, there’s going to be more camps later on and I’ve spoken to Holger, blah blah blah’. And in the end I didn’t even go to the camp. When I look back now I think… far out.

“If somebody had said to me, ‘Zenon don’t even worry about your club football,’ who’s to say? If they had said, ‘this is an opportunity you can’t miss because you don’t know if it will come around again,’ I would have went because it was just inflammation on my heel.

“But you don’t really look back and say I should have gone there, I might have played for Australia. You never know. It was nice to get the call up and nice to get on the radar but unfortunately I didn’t go.”

Caravella endured a tough final season at the Jets, as the club picked up the wooden spoon and he was not selected for the final three rounds.

“Even though last year was very challenging I loved playing every minute,” he said.

“Because I had come out of retirement before, every minute I stepped on the field I just loved it, I really enjoyed it, even though it was a difficult year. They’re rebuilding now, good luck to them.

“They need to have a good team down there because they’re great supporters, there’s a lot of membership and the place can be huge. It can be really big. They just have to get it right.”