FFA’s war with FIFA. FFA’s war with its own stakeholders. The prospect of a normalisation committee and being turfed out of the Asian Cup. The Socceroos starting life under a coach who divides the fans. Expansion about to delight two and disaffect the rest. And pop music at goal kicks and corners? Some would suggest that Australian football’s traditional death wish is simply ratcheting up a notch, but I reckon this could be the best season ever.
There’s never a dull moment being an Australian football fan. If we’re not defending our honour against rival codes, media bias and Eurosnobs, we’re bound to be facing some other crisis of internal conflict. Just want to talk about the football? That’s for wooses!
I shook my head in disbelief last week when Sport Australia saw fit to wade into the FFA v FIFA war. What possible impact could their interference have other than to convince FIFA that a government body was meddling in football politics – the avoidance of which is an article of FIFA faith.
Sport Australia would know absolutely that their efforts would have zero chance of changing FIFA’s mind and every chance of upsetting them (if they need any more reason to be upset with FFA). So why did they do it?
Of course, the AFL/NRL cronies who infest Sport Australia only want the best for Australian football so it makes perfect sense they’d want to make a statement – just in case FIFA didn’t think there had been interference.
So if we do get to defend the Asian Cup, it’ll be under Arnie – the man loved by half the fans and loathed by the rest. I’m on record as saying I was furious when I heard he’d been appointed at the Mariners. “Not Arnie!” I wailed. “Anyone but Arnie!”
It took him two matches to turn me around. The tightness of his team shape, the brightness of his attacking style and the youthful talent he brought through. The Mariners had three brilliant seasons under Arnie and the team that won the 2013 Grand Final has to be one of the best in A-League history.
He did it again with Sydney FC and broke all records, and now he’ll do it with the Socceroos. He’ll play 4/2/3/1 with fast overlapping fullbacks getting the ball early to the skilled technical players like Rogic and Arzani who’ll be running at defences in disarray instead of trying to unpack the massed parked buses we usually encounter in Asia.
There will be joy for some but disappointment for a lot of teams (and their supporters) when expansion finally happens at the end of October. If I were king of the FFA I’d be trying to surprise and delight the fans by making an announcement out of left field. Four teams for the first phase of expansion (or at least two, and two more the following year). We already have the player depth in the NPL so bring it on! It’s one of the few things the FFA could do that would meet with universal approval.
Something meeting with universal disapproval is pop music at goal kicks and corners. Are you kidding? Seriously? Do the FFA’s marketers know anything at all about the game and its culture?
You can just imagine the marketers sitting about with their pony-tailed consultants, eating their prawn sandwiches and talking about semiotics, demographics and catchment analysis.
“Look at the Big Bash!” says Tiffany Tosspot, “they have pop music all the time to distract the fans from the fact that nothing’s happening. That’s what’s missing at A-League matches.”
“Great idea!” cries Travis Twatford, “and why don’t we get rid of the offside rule and make the goals bigger?”
“Or make goals worth more points?” suggests Gillon des Guise. “The fans hate low scoring matches.”
“Brilliant!” agree the others, sipping their Dom Perignon in the certain knowledge they’ve just saved the game.
It is a vision of hell, but there IS one thing that gives me hope – the fans. No matter how ignored, scorned or insulted by the FFA, or the media sycophantic to rival codes, the fans still love their football and just want the game to do well in Australia.
There are a lot of us.
Our time will come.
And my predictions for the coming season: Arnie’s going to do brilliantly; expansion will get a bit of excitement back into the stale league; we’ll see the emergence of a few new Arzani types (and some excellent new foreigners); and the Mariners will make the finals!
Adrian’s latest book The Fighting Man is in the shops right now or available through Booktopia. Adrian also wrote Mr Cleansheets.