Phew. Another world cup qualification is over and thanks heavens we’re going to Brazil. Can’t help it but after six World Cups campaigns that ended in disappointment, near misses and heartache I never take qualification for granted (kids nowadays…so spoiled) and as per usual it was agony right down to the wire last night.
So now we can relax and think about Brazil and how we are going to improve our chances to be competitive. While making the World Cup is great, it is part of the Australian sporting culture not to ‘just make the numbers’.
So here are some of my thoughts after last night’s triumph.
Whatever group we end up with it will be designated as ‘The group of death’
This has been true for at least the last two World Cups we’ve participated. The media, especially the media that doesn’t give a hoot about football between World Cups like to dramatise Australia’s position.
The fact is that Australia is going to have to play with a top nation whatever. The fact is that we are still in the bottom rung of world footballdom and the way the World Cup draw is seeded we are meant to cop a ‘big one’.
This very useful diagram by http://www.footballseeding.com/international-tournaments/world-cup-2014/ shows how it will happen.
These are based on the Coca-Cola Ranking FIFA and you can see the danger here. Australia may be drawn hypothetically against Spain, Italy and Chile which would be really be a group of death (especially for us), but whatever happens we will be playing top teams. It is the World Cup after all. We all be waiting the draw in December where the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol and Brazilian TV will, I’m sure, entice us with a glittery occasion.
There will be articles/comments downplaying the significance of Australia being in the World Cup
One of the things that many Association Football fans fear in not qualifying for the World Cup is not just missing out, but also that we have to endure the scorn of those who for some reason either hate the code, or get a sense of superiority downgrading Australian Association Football.
It is an unholy alliance. I do wonder whether any other country in the world has a number of people who actually is happy that the national team doesn’t qualify to play in the most popular sporting event in the world, and gets a great feeling of Schadenfreude about it. Then we have the ‘Eurosnobs’ where a failed qualification would prove that they were right all along to disdain following the team representing the country of their birth, and go for the one of their heritage. They don’t fail telling us that Australians are crap at Association Football, and how superior they are compared to us lesser mortals following the Australian National team. So while in other normal countries missing qualification would mean a national mourning shared by everyone, in Australia us Football fans had to endure snide chortling as well.
But the anti-Association Football brigade doesn’t give up that easily.
Now that we’ve been in a couple of World Cups recently, I’ve noticed that the ‘really who cares about soccer’ articles start to come out at World Cup time. Again why this happens still baffles me. Do we read articles downplaying the efforts of the Boomers or the Hockeyroos when they play a World Championship, or in the Olympics? Why does the Socceroos deserve such comments?
I guess because the fact that the World Cup is such a global event pushes a few buttons. As people know if you’ve read my blog before I love AFL football, and its strengh, I believe, is in its Australian uniqueness. But for some people the fact that an Australian team is playing in the most watched sport event in the world arise some sort of inferiority complex that makes them going on the attack, writing that really, we may be in the World Cup, but no-one really cares about soccer in Australia, that people follow it only because it’s the World Cup, and then they won’t care, etc. etc. What’s this attention depravation syndrome about? Just because we don’t get for a month wall to wall coverage of AFL and NRL every four years some get a bit hoity toity? Really.
While I grant that Association Football is not the most followed code in Australia, why not enjoy the fact that we joined the party? What are they scared of? What’s the need to be disparaging?
Relax and enjoy being there guys!
And this brings me to the next point.
OK. So now we get people who wouldn’t know a corner kick from an offside start wearing green and gold and follow the national team for the World Cup. So what if they don’t know much about the game? So what if they stop being interested after the World Cup?
I’ve read comments in Association Football forums of long-standing fans being all so superior because there are these ‘AFL types’ that don’t know the rules etc.. We should be delighted that they have joined us, even if it is for a while. What do we want. A sell-out stadium or a ¾ full one with just the ‘true believers’?
Football is a sport open to everyone. Whoever who wants to follow just has to turn up, whatever their knowledge of the game. There is no membership acceptance process or knowledge exam. We are not the bloody Melbourne Club or a Masonic Lodge.
And besides, if we really want Association Football to become even more important in the sporting landscape of Australia we need these people on board, and we should take the opportunity to educate them. I remember I was at an international friendly when I overheard some people beside me asking themselves why ‘the interchange players didn’t came back’. I intervened and told them that one of the interesting things about Association Football is that the coach has three substitutions, and that is it, once the player is out he can’t come back. The skill of the coach is to make the right substitutions depending how the match is progressing. They were quite appreciative of the information and I am sure it would have enhanced their experience of the game.
So when you see people around who you think as bandwagoners, think them as potential new members of our community.
Sit back and relax
When Australia qualifies for the World Cup, is such a relief that I feel when I finished my exams and Uni and spent the day afterwards watching daytime TV and drinking instant coffee. The A-League is starting in October. There will be a few friendlies. Life is sweet.