The ‘new football’ vs ‘old soccer’ argument.

Ever since the set up of the Football Federation Australia and the A-League there has been plenty of discussion between the ‘new football’ and ‘the old soccer’.

There is no doubt that many football supporters that have propped up the sport during the days when football was described as the ‘sick child of Australian sport’ and and perceived solely as an activity for migrants felt betrayed when the A-League started. These fans created clubs from almost nothing mostly with their free time and labour and now they were told that they were an embarrassment and they were not wanted.

I agree that there had to be some sort of break from the past. Soccer Australia was incompetent and the sport was spirally downwards in irrelevancy.

While the traditional clubs had true passion about the sport, their links to particular cultural groups alienated many who wanted to follow the sport.

This topic is taken in the latest issue of the Independent Football Media fanzine (pdf file). A publication created by some Melbourne Victory supporters. I don’t agree with all the statements here (I still think that Lowy has been overall a very positive factor in football in Australia) but it is an interesting read.

As the fifth edition of Australia’s new domestic football competition comes to a close, in what is sure to be a fiery encounter on and off the pitch, this fan would like to know if the brains behind the operation are satisfied with what they’ve produced or are wondering what has gone wrong.

Ever since the leagues inception back in ’05 the argument of new vs old has dominated most football fans conversations. Something had to be done, the administration was far from professional (many would call it corrupt), clubs were extensions of ethnic social clubs, players were only players after business hours and many would agree that it affected the quality of the national team and in turn their poor performance in qualifying for major tournaments.

The quality of the players were there for all to admire, the national team which qualified for the world cup in Germany was made up of names who started off playing in the NSL and there were plenty of others who had made a living playing football and it all started
in the old soccer leagues.

Of the 2006 world cup cup squad, only Lucas Neil and Craig Moore didn’t play in the NSL whilst Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill played in the youth teams of NSL clubs before heading overseas. It just goes to show that on the park, the NSL was as good as (and perhaps better than) the A-League.

Of course what did trouble the NSL was the lack of funds, lack of professionalism and the crowd trouble. This wasn’t too different to AFL clubs at one stage, they moved onto the next step and the game skyrocketed (in Melbourne anyway) whereas Soccer Australia could not take the game to the next level.

Many would be quick to pin all the blame on the ethnics when it came to crowd trouble, but if you take a second to think about it, were they any worse then hardcore AFL/NRL fans? Were there any “fair dinkum” aussies following the sport back then anyway? Of course it would be easy to pin all the blame on the “wogs”. Yet in the famous Crawford Report there were no concerns of crowd violence, just a corrupt administration.

In the A-League we now have a more professionally run competition. It has financial backing, it has a more positive perception in the media, it is more appealing to more Australians and has taken the domestic game to the next level. Some would argue that the quality is not the same. Sometimes it is hard to argue against that, how many A-League players are representing the national team in the big games? How many will make the world cup squad later this year? In terms of producing the next batch of national team players, you would think the A-League is slightly behind at the moment. The league definitely has the potential to develop our next Harry Kewell’s, Marco Bresciano’s, Mark Viduka’s, etc. but it seems it will take longer then the time we have for the next tournament in 2014.

As for the “big ugly head” that is crowd/ethnic violence, that has not changed much either. It has perhaps toned down a little, mainly because technology has improved also. That and the FFA felt the need to hire some goons to chase around a bunch of young men on the weekends – Hi Mr. Shepherds!

In the end of the day New Football is nothing more then Old Soccer with more money. Lowy and his goons have more money to play with and are thinking of ways to make even more for themselves, not for the game itself.

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