Are we just too cool to care about football?
My concerns for the Olyroos started with the anthems. The Bahrainis sang like their lives depended on the result of some hellish karaoke competition. The Aussies sang in a bored monotone that expressed, all too clearly, the lack of gusto with which they were about to play the game.
As a person who has coached young men in this country – Central Coast Premier League from 2005 to 2010 – I have some observations about their psychology.
They're too cool to care.
I don't know exactly where this comes from – I blame social media and Hollywood, and probably global warming – but I've noticed that around the age of 14, Australian males lose their innate youthful optimism and are more concerned with "not failing" than success.
This has numerous implications – for life in general, but more importantly, for football.
The best way not to fail, after all, is not to try in the first place (or not to be seen to try). Because if you try, you might not make it, and everyone will know you tried and that you are therefore pathetic because only morons try but don't make it.
So what does this say for football culture in our country?
It means that very few people have the guts to try for the outre – to test their talent without fear of where that might lead. That's why we love the Rogics, the Arzanis, the Silveras, the McGrees, and lately the Piscopos.
All others play within themselves – more concerned with keeping possession than risking a forward pass through the lines or even (heaven forbid) trying to beat an opponent. It does my head in!
If you want to win a football match then you have to take risks unless your aggregate skills and organisation are manifestly enough to overcome those tiny margins that are normally decisive.
But if you've grown up in – and been rewarded by – a football culture that prefers non-risk takers, then the likelihood is you'll be selected to play for a country that plays conservative football and doesn't know how to cope with the passion of a country that actually cares.
When I watch Asian teams, at any level, the number one thing that characterises all of them is passion. They really give a shit about the result, while our lot – too often – look like they care more about their haircuts. When they come up against passion, it's like they're shocked and forget how to use their (so-called) skills.
Obviously, on some level, there is a need for pragmatism – you have to pick guys who know how to defend and how to take instruction, but I also want us to pick guys who hate losing – who want to play because they are proud of their country and actually think about the fans who enjoy their presence at (and success in) major tournaments.
I don't just want players who've been told by their agents they'll be in the shop window - so don't screw up!
Above all, I want us to develop a generation of representative players who have the confidence to try, and not to be (within reason) concerned for their place if they fail.
We will never have a successful and entertaining national team until we start selecting players who have developed in a milieu that no longer rewards non-failure.
Players who aren't terrified of failure will also, likely, be much better singers – and more likely to progress in major tournaments.
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. He will have a new novel out shortly.