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Make room on the Socceroos bandwagon

Climb aboard: The Socceroos are growing in stature among Australian sporting fans, and will only grow further if they ...

Climb aboard: The Socceroos are growing in stature among Australian sporting fans, and will only grow further if they make it to Brazil. Photo: Getty Images

Surely the Socceroos win. Surely they beat Iraq and avoid the tortuous uncertainty of sudden death repechage in Asia and South America. Surely they go straight to Rio.

In their way? "The Lions of Mesopotamia", who, in a traumatic aftermath to their failed qualifying campaign, appear more like the tranquillised, mange-ridden creatures from a travelling circus than kings of the jungle. Two of their best players, Younis Mahmoud and Nashat Akram, have withdrawn due to a contractual dispute. Striker Alaa Abdul-Zahra was red-carded in the defeat to Japan.

So, surely, the resurgent Socceroos will perform a thorough examination of Iraq and find only weapons of misdirection. Not the once talented outfit that might have caused sleepless nights.

Of course, it is never so easy. Ask those who still curl up in the foetal position at the utterance of that other four-letter word – Iran.

So much as it at stake. More than we would like to admit.

FFA chief executive David Gallop was eager to propagate the idea the Socceroos are no longer the most vital element for the game's development. This was a purpose proposition that emphasised the growth of the A-League and removed some of the pressure the team had heaped upon itself during a patchy qualifying performance.

However, when the Socceroos trot out for what – a suddenly very attentive nation hopes – will be the last stop on the road to Brazil, those words will hold about as much water as a Lilliputian's bath tub. More apt will be Gallop's rider: "[Qualification] would provide a rocket boost in the game's trajectory."

Yes, football in Australia, and the A-League particularly, have come along way. But to suggest the Socceroos are no longer the sport's most vital element is like suggesting you could still play a pretty good game without the ball.

This much was apparent in the aftermath to Australia's rousing performance in Japan, and their vital victory over Jordan. Particularly in the intense interest of those casual observers who – for whatever reason – would no sooner attend an A-League game than download a Delta Goodrem song.

Most pertinently, it was emphasised by a once absurd question now seriously posed: Have the Socceroos surpassed the Baggy Greens as Australia's predominant national team?

The answer, on commercial and community interest levels, is no. But that this proposition prompts even a slight furrowing of the brow is a measure of where the Socceroos stand. In a strong second place, with the cricketers looking over their shoulders and the Wallabies eating their dust.

That the 82,000 capacity ANZ Stadium was sold out four days before Tuesday night's final game against Iraq is another compelling indication of the Socceroos' enduring importance. Even more so, the thousands of casual observers who will be glued to their televisions.

From elements in the football community, there remains a self-defeating disdain from the sport's bandwagon hoppers. A with-or-against-us mentality that fails to recognise the predominance, in a wonderfully multi-denominational sporting community, of the pluralist fan. Those whose cupboard might contain a Roosters, Swans, Waratahs and Sydney FC scarf.

Wiser heads recognised that football needed to absorb the theatregoers long ago if it was to make more conversions. Holding the A-League season to summer not only put it in line with the northern winter, it also recognised the cold month diaries of many potential fans were already packed.

Now, the A-League grows at a steady pace. There have been times when, quite literally, you could not give an Australian franchise away. On Monday, the Australian Financial Review reported the FFA was accelerating the sale of the Western Sydney Wanderers after their stellar season. The starting price is $15 million. Money that could help provide stability for less prosperous clubs.

But the A-League does not have – might never have – the unifying effect of the Socceroos. It does not showcase the very best Australian players. At least not those in their prime.

It is the Socceroos who realise the game's great boast. A connection with the world's largest sport and, in turn, with sport's greatest event.

Even Australians who think Messi is the state of their kitchen after a big dinner party want to go to the World Cup. Only the Socceroos can take us there.

rhinds@smh.com.au

Twitter @rdhinds

26 comments so far

  • What are joke. Look at the news broadcasters in primetime, apart from sbs, no channel cares about soccer. The confederations cup started 2 days ago, and not a single public station beside sbs did a report on it. Mind you every single other sport on the news was covered, NRL,AFL, union, tennis, netball, but not soccer. Australia wants to host the world cup but wont broadcast or report on any international soccer events. Without the imports, where would the A league Be?

    Commenter
    John
    Date and time
    June 17, 2013, 5:54PM
    • John,
      Commercial TV is parochial, you don't hear much about the 6 Nations either.
      As for imports into the A-League, by any measure, Australia is a net exporter of soccer talent.

      Commenter
      Patrick
      Date and time
      June 17, 2013, 11:07PM
    • John totally agree. Last night Channel 9 news went to the ad break with the trailer of the upcoming sports items. They mentioned the SOO, cricket and the Socceroos but surprise surprise in the their sports news NO coverage of the game whatsoever! No mention of football at all!
      Channel 9 you are a joke and what a shame you didnt go broke a few months ago.

      Commenter
      Chris
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      June 18, 2013, 8:09AM
    • Its not in the interest of the commercial stations to promote Football as they have invested heavily in the other games. The reality every country's best players don't play in their local league unless they are English, Italian , Spanish or German.

      Our best players want to play against the best just as our best actors, directors etc want to play in Hollywood. Let's be honest the prime reason The great Gatsby was filmed here was because of generous government tax breaks. I don't think the A league will be getting the same breaks.

      The great thing about football is its like a geography lesson every time we play another country unlike NRL Us, NZ, bit of england and a bit of France, AFL nobody and cricket England, NZ pakistan, South Africa Multi countries from the carribean (how many people think West Indies is actually a country) India and sri Lanka.

      Go the socceroos

      Commenter
      kellybellyfonte
      Date and time
      June 18, 2013, 9:02AM
    • Commercial stations have commercial interests John. Seven is the AFL's media partner, and Nine is the NRL's media partner. Both have just signed massive (most would argue too big) broadcast contracts with their respective partners. And make no mistake, that is what it they are, business partners, not just broadcasters. Don't be naive and think that doesn't have a definite impact on their general news coverage of sports.

      Commenter
      James
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      June 18, 2013, 9:28AM
    • 9 & 7s news is junk. Why would you expect their sports coverage to be any better. That's why god invented SBS. It's better this way, can you imagine 7 or 9 with the rights to the A league or WC Qualifiers. It would be horrendous. There are also other questions to be asked, like why such a nationally significant sporting event is being shown on free to air on delay? We all know the answer but why is it being allowed to happen. BTW where did you see netball news, I must have blinked and missed it. I've been to a few games, it's a spectacular game that is hugely underrated. As for me I used to go to world cup qualifiers at the old Sydney Sports Ground (what a great venue that was) in the 1970s, and have also followed the Swans since their relocation. Plenty of room to follow both in my life.

      Commenter
      Quasimodo's Dream
      Date and time
      June 18, 2013, 10:37AM
    • Sorry to do this John, but Sunrise [shock horror a commercial channel] had a group of Football kids on their show this morning, being interviewed and playing the World Game for the cameras. Seriously you don't have to like our sport but you don't have to comment on something you know nothing about and obviously totally biased against. Ch 9 have a vested interest in NRL, Ch 7 in AFL do you really think they are going to advertise the main opponents to their business interests? If so I have a little bridge in Sydney I'd love to sell you.

      Commenter
      Football4Ever
      Date and time
      June 18, 2013, 11:39AM
    • Some NRL player hurts his hamsting and may not make it for a game is head line news....
      Shortly followed by the monotonously regular grotesque incidents both on and off the field, then theres the gambling throughout the game to make it more like horse racing.....
      Do you think the punters are tired of this and prefer to watch a nil all draw at the soccer?

      Commenter
      Tadd
      Location
      Wollongong
      Date and time
      June 18, 2013, 3:50PM
    • Absolutey agree, John. Soccer is the biggest game in the world.

      Not NRL the bogan game. Not cricket the former British empire game.

      Viva Socceroos!

      Commenter
      HG
      Location
      Hills District
      Date and time
      June 18, 2013, 4:45PM
    • Anyone who uses commercial tv or murdoch papers for their football news has no idea.

      Commenter
      jimmithefish
      Date and time
      June 19, 2013, 1:13AM

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