ARE WE SERIOUS ABOUT GROWING OUR GAME?
As Australians we are known globally as “Sports Mad” and I am sure that many of us would be very proud of that tag. I think it is healthy to engage in sport and if that means exposing our children to all the sports in their formative years and let them decide which sport suits them best is a luxury that not many other countries can boast.
Indeed we have many elite sports men and women who have excelled in more than one sport and represented Australia in more than one discipline. Australia enjoys success in just about every sport that it competes in, and we have all become accustomed to “Winning” at the highest level. One sport that we are yet to conquer in as far as being global champions is “FOOTBALL”, soccer to the uninitiated. Football is “The World Game” and if we are to be truly the sports capital of the world we must plan to win the Football World Cup.
Craig Johnson one of Australia’s most successful football exports once said of football in Australia, “Playing soccer for Australia is like surfing for England”. That is no longer the case as a nation we have grown rapidly and the game is on the verge of “Domination”. Gone are the days of maladministration at football headquarters, gone are the days when football was a poor relation to Rugby League; Rugby Union; and the AFL, and gone are the days when football was called “Wog Ball”.
In 1951 Australia lined up against England at the Sydney Cricket Ground and lost 17-0. In 2003 Australia beat a full England side in London (Craven Cottage) 3-1. In the 1960’s Australia was banned for three years by the Worlds governing body FIFA for flouting with regulations in respect of ignoring player transfers on the international market. Today Australia has earnt a very healthy respect from FIFA who are actually considering holding a World Cup Final in Australia in the not too distant future.
We now have the highest participation rates at junior level certainly, and to many we are seen as the Worlds nursery. Since Joe MARSTON played in the 1954 FA CUP Final, we have seen Craig JOHNSTON do it twice for Liverpool in 1986, and 1988. He was followed by Tim CAHILL for Millwall in 2004, and most recently by Harry KEWELL for Liverpool in 2006.
Now that the governing body in this country is providing the vehicle to a global success how serious are we, the managers, the coaches, the players, the administrators at local level? Personally, I get angry at missed opportunities. Let me explain.
Whilst I have no objections to football fans paying money to go and watch other sports, I get angry when we do it at the expense of our own sport. It is simple really. The more attendances that the other codes get like Rugby League, Rugby Union and AFL the more sponsorship dollar they receive. What needs to happen is that each and every one of us football fans needs to ensure that our A League attendances are at a maximum, our National Team enjoys sell outs on every occasion, and regardless of which A league team progresses to the Asian Champions League we need to get behind them. Why? Because the exposure that our teams will get in Asia will translate to bigger corporate sponsorship deals because of the exposure companies will get in these huge economic markets. It makes sense that television stations pay large amounts for broadcasting rights, because of the market segment. As football fans we cannot keep supporting the other codes at the expense of our own, or sponsorship will not flow down to the grass roots.
Make a stand. When next you go to watch a ROAR match and someone is listening to the AFL on the radio tell them that you appreciate their financial support because they paid to get into Suncorp Stadium, but that you went to the Stadium to watch the greatest game of all and not to hear the AFL. If you wanted to do that you would have gone to the Gabba!
Make a stand. When next you are at your local football club and someone is seen kicking an odd shape ball (which has a mind of its own) around the pitch tell them that you will be happy to get them a “Proper” ball to kick around otherwise they should go and play their preferred game on the appropriate park.
Make a stand. When next you go to a Football club and they are televising Rugby league or AFL, tell them that if you wanted to follow those sports you would have gone to those sports clubs. It is ludicrous to me that I should visit the Queensland Roar/Lions club and have to endure a Rugby League match. If I wanted to do that then surely I would have gone to a Rugby League Club! It is even worse when a football match is being played at the stadium at the same time. Show some loyalty at least.
If YOU want to be serious about growing our game of football, then consider spending a little less of your hard earnt on the other codes and a little more on our code. You will be contributing toward Australia becoming one of very few countries that have become CHAMPIONS in every sport, and more importantly CHAMPIONS of the game that is played in every corner of the globe. The Football World Cup is indeed the cup that every nation in the world competes in; it is not the “World Series” of Baseball where only one or two countries are involved. It is not a game where international domination depends on an annual game between Australians and Irish where they play to one set of rules in one half and another in the second half. We are talking about being the REAL CHAMPIONS of the World!