There are only two occasions when Australian soccer receives anywhere near as much media attention as the other football codes. That time every four years when we reach the final hurdle in the quest to qualify for the World Cup; and whenever ethnic hooligans fight each other. With such a strong sporting tradition it’s a shame that the ‘World Game’ gets so little attention here.
There are some obvious and not so obvious reasons for this. Soccer has to compete with the big four of Aussie rules, rugby, league, and cricket, but this is no reason why it can’t succeed here. Indeed, soccer has already won in the sense that more kids play the round ball game than any other sport. The trouble is trying to keep these kids playing soccer when they get older, which isn’t helped by the lack of opportunities in Australia. Geography is the main reason for this, exemplified by the fact that the last few ‘home’ games for the Socceroos were played in London.
Many soccer clubs in Australia have also traditionally been ethnic based, usually founded by groups of postwar immigrants from Eastern Europe. It was common during the old NSL days to see fans waving a few Greek or Croation flags at games, and still is today around the various state leagues. Perhaps this ‘ethnicity’, and the view that only wogs play soccer has turned a lot of would be mainstream fans away.
One may also examine Australia’s sporting record in general. We only seem to be good at the sports only a handful of other countries play. There are ten countries that play test cricket, and half of them are shit. It’s a similar story for other sports we generally consider ourselves among the best in world at – league; rugby; netball; and to an extent, swimming.
Hopefully this will all change by the end of tomorrow night. Or if not then, at least in four years time when we’re part of the Asian Confederation and take part in a ‘real’ qualification campaign instead of the Oceania farce we have to go through today.