Simmering angst gives way to rise in passion
IT’S a busy time of the year in the football world in Oz.
The Hyundai A-league is under way and running smoothly. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as much underlying angst within the different echelons of the competition as there was this time last year.
The hierarchy was at odds with the “active support” groups and there was definitely a lot of overly zealous and heavy-handed treatment by security that saw them essentially boycotting matches.
Then there was the congress issue which brought an element of dysfunctionality to the game as a whole. Thanks to some great work and a common-sense approach from ALeague chief Greg O’Rourke during the off-season, that situation has improved.
He met face-to-face with active support groups, and security agencies and sensible decisions were made that brought the fans back to the fold. Now, at the games I’ve seen so far, there is some feeling and passion back in the stands that adds genuinely to the occasion.
For those that campaigned so aggressively in the past for massive change in management at the top, you’ve got your wish. The door is now open for some new knights on their own white horses, with their own slogans and rhetoric to come and save the local football world! Just how this will pan out I can’t really say, because I’ve heard it all before. Only time will tell.
For all the work keeping the high-profile, professional end of the game ticking over just now, the “real” work is being done in the substrates beneath … the NPL and the Community clubs and the like that keep the game alive.
This is the time of year when everything is prepared for next season. These clubs are the heart and soul of the game, because this is where the kids that will go on to the Socceroos and Matildas learn to love and play football.
This is the facet of the game that really needs to be developed – to be invested in, because it is the future. Don’t just talk about or take comfort from the fact football is the biggest participant sport in the country – make it work.
Make it the biggest game in the country. These clubs battle year after year to stay alive, while the coffers of local governing bodies swell along with the wages and size of administration off the back of the graft of those that care at the micro level.
The clubs fight battles to exist in their own right. Football is always fighting battles – often within its own ranks, but there are also battles to be fought with those outside the football world – with politicians and bureaucrats that pay lip service to the game when it suits but don’t do much when a club or an association needs extra field space or a grant for development.
Then there are the battles with the other codes, the perennial fight for survival in a small market.
When the new board comes in, this is another priority that needs to be addressed. In the past, we haven’t taken the fight to the other codes. I accept diplomacy and decorum are important, but sometimes we have to get on the front foot and step on some toes.
The Asian Cup is two months away, and heralds the beginning of another World Cup cycle for the Socceroos.
The Matildas are going from strength to strength and play in their World Cup Finals next year. By the time the Socceroos reach Qatar in 2022, football will have painted a vastly different picture to the one now. Rightly or wrongly, change is about to happen.
With change comes opportunity, and renewed hope.