The Socceroos shocked the world in Qatar – but across Australia, the code can’t afford to sit on its hands for a second time.
Lessons must be learnt from 2006, when the success in Germany thanks to the Golden Generation was taken for granted and not acted upon.
Now is the time to capitalise, when interest in football is at an all-time high.
And with the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year, the sport has a priceless opportunity to ensure it stays relevant.
Towering defender Harry Souttar was immense for Australia at the World Cup – now a move to the English Premier League is looming large
Daily Mail Australia has broken down what must happen to ensure football flourishes over the next few years.
Across 2021 and 2022, football ($7,903,750) received less federal government funding compared to the likes of cycling ($14,496,436), athletics ($10,747,326), hockey ($9,846,636), sailing (A$9,581,000), swimming ($9,467,670) and basketball ($8,018,784).
Given football has the highest participation number rate of any sport in Australia, the figure has been called into question by many.
And rightly so.
Socceroos boss Graham Arnold is adamant more funding will help improve junior development pathways.
‘We need to spend money and get help from the government to put some money into the game to help develop kids,’ he said.
‘One thing I would really love to see before I finish up completely in football is the government build us a house.
‘We need a home, a facility like the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport), something that the government can help fund for the development of the national teams but also for the good of Australian football.’
RETAIN GRAHAM ARNOLD AS SOCCEROOS COACH
It seemed an unlikely prospect after Australia failed to qualify directly for the World Cup, finishing behind Saudi Arabia and Japan.
The Socceroos went the long route to Qatar, playing 20 games before beating the UAE and Peru in Doha back in June to secure their spot at the showpiece event.
Written off as cannon fodder against France, Denmark and Tunisia, Arnold stunned millions after guiding Australia out of the group stage in the Middle East.
Now he can name his price, and won’t be short of offers elsewhere.
According to Football Australia boss James Johnson, he is keen to secure Arnold long term – and given the bond the coach has created with his squad, it is a deal which simply must happen.
Tactically, Graham Arnold was elite in Qatar – a contract extension as Socceroos boss is a must
REDUCE PLAYING FEES
Decorated former Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has been vocal on the topic – and even put on his journalist hat in Qatar and asked Johnson some hard questions.
Speaking this week on Optus Sport’s GegenPod podcast, the one time Middlesbrough shot-stopper reiterated the cost to play football in Australia – especially in junior representative ranks – is absurd.
‘I would love to see a situation where there are no fees at all,’ he said.
‘FA also needs to acknowledge there is an issue here, we are losing kids to other sports due to the cost.
‘I also think we as a code, the football federation, as supporters of the game, people as taxpayers, need to put pressure on state governments, because they have a lot to answer for.
‘When you look at the funding that goes to other codes, it is so disproportionate. It is embarrassing that taxpayer’s money goes to codes that have far fewer participants.
‘Look what the results in Qatar did for the country. It is the only sport that unites the entire country.’
At just 18, the potential of Garang Kuol is frightening – but he easily could have been lost to the sport due to absurd fees as a junior
UNCOVER MORE ROUGH DIAMONDS
Garang Kuol would have been lost to the sport if it wasn’t for the generosity of the Goulburn Valley Suns FC.
The semi-professional club in Victoria recognised his talent from a young age, and fees were virtually waived for the winger and his brothers – Alou and Teng.
Eventually the Central Coast Mariners came calling in the A-League – and now Garang, 18, is about to link up with Newcastle United in the English Premier League, with Alou, 21, based in Germany with VfB Stuttgart II.
Keanu Baccus came through the junior system at Blacktown City in Sydney’s west – similar talent needs to nurtured at the right age by the right coaches
GET MORE PLAYERS IN EUROPE
The A-League should always be viewed as a springboard for players before they move abroad – not a permanent destination.
If the Socceroos are to improve, they need players featuring in Europe’s leading leagues week in and week out, not just in Asia or the Middle East.
While financially lucrative, the standard isn’t as strong.
Impressing at a World Cup can open many doors – just ask Harry Souttar, who is expected to leave Stoke City and join an EPL club in January.
The more Aussie players in England, Germany, Italy and Spain the better.