This is the third and final of my Australian soccer articles, and this one will address soccer in Australia in general, and will touch on topics such as youth development, the national league, and the sports competition with other sports.
SBS’s Les Murray wrote an article for theworldgame.com.au in which he argues that there is nothing wrong with soccer in general, but the thing that is on the nose with soccer in Australia is the NSL and the mob that administers it. His article is definitely worth a read and pretty much says a lot of the things I had intended to say in this article. So save me typing it and go and read it.
What he doesn’t go on to say, that needs to be said, is that if the NSL is allowed to continue along its current path, it is likely to have a negative effect on the sport as a whole in this country. Without an acceptable National League, what will junior players aspire to? Sure there will always be the occasional youngster with enough talent to get a break early, just as Harry Kewell did, but most of the Australian players making it big overseas started their senior careers in the NSL. Viduka, Schwarzer, Bosnic, Zelic etc all started in the local competition, from which their international career took off. So it is vital that we do not let the national competition die.
It’s already dead in its current form, with clubs battling to stay afloat. It needs a complete overhaul. Start afresh. When the current contracts with the national league clubs expire in 2005, Soccer Australia (SA) must take that opportunity to make a clean start. Nigel_K in the forum of theworldgame.com.au suggest that SA establish an Australian Premier League, with 8 teams.
NSW : Sydney Spirit , Western Sydney , Newcastle
QLD : Queensland state rep side(replaces Brisbane strikers)
VIC : Victoria ( New state rep side)
SA : South Australia (New state rep side)
WA : Perth Glory
NZ : Auckland (replace current outfit)
I don’t entirely agree with such a structure but it’s a better option than going with what we have. This itself is probably deserving of its own write-up, but after three such articles on Australian soccer, I feel I’ll be too depressed to delve too deep for fear of giving up the fight (for a while anyway… I might come back and look at this in the future)
Now, let’s continue with the topic of the NSL. There has been talk about the NSL clubs cutting players’ pay. This is ridiculous. As it is, local clubs are having trouble keeping players with an iota of talent (losing them to overseas clubs) and if those that want to stay here can’t make a reasonable living doing it, most would choose to play overseas too. What you’ll be left with is an amateur or semi-pro league again, and how the hell is that going to get the public interested in the sport? The sport needs to increase the level of skill on Australian pitches to increase the sport’s appeal, and not dilute it further by forcing more players overseas in order for them to make a living from their chosen sport.
At the moment, SA is incompetent and corrupt and the NSL sucks more than ever. If they are not fixed and fixed soon, the fact that soccer in Australia has a higher participation rate than any other team sport will not help it. Young players are already leaving the game and not coming back. Leaving for AFL and Rugby. If this continues the healthy grassroots of soccer in Australia will also begin to erode, much like the NSL has and we’ll be left with a bunch of enthusiasts that organise their own weekend competitions, much like most third-world footballing nations.
Oh no! This has triggered another tangent that I feel compelled to go down.
While in Trinidad a few years ago, I was asked to go watch my wife’s eight-year-old cousin play football. His father was a huge fan of the sport and knew that I played. I was amazed to discover that Trinidad does not have a structured junior competition, as we do here in Australia. Individuals with a love of the game and a willingness to spend some time go around to different areas and conduct camps for the kids. The camps cost the parents a bit but the kids get some coaching (of sorts). At the end of these, the kids have a bit of a match amongst themselves with the coach and parents officiating and that’s it for them. No junior clubs, no week in, week out training twice a week and a match on the weekend for these kids as we have here. If the kid’s interest in the game has survived until High School, they are then exposed to some structure, with the inter-school competition that is run. We too had this, but this was more of a bonus for us kids that played for our clubs on weekends. Despite this, raw natural talent can come from such an environment, just look at Dwight Yorke. Now think how good we have it here, with our existing infrastructure at junior levels. There is no reason that this could not go on to produce young adults that qualify or even win a world cup.
We have the infrastructure that produces the talent. So what do we lack? We lack the vision by the upper echelons of the sport in this country to do what is required to get the most out of what is done at the grassroots level. This is due to corruption, individuals using the sport to better their political aspirations and a lack of cash. The latter is largely caused by the other two. What do we need? A Soccer Australia that is competent and willing to make some hard decisions. What would be nice, would be a NewsCorp/SuperLeague type brouhaha that almost killed Rugby League to happen with the NSL. This would get rid of the deadbeat teams and inject the capital and media interest into the sport that it so desperately needs. So what do you say Mr Murdoch? We know you have an interest in the sport, just look at Sky Channel in the UK and Manchester United, and your involvement in these. Help out the game in your home country a bit. Please.
[Originally Posted by vlado at January 03, 2002 07:26 PM at https://kekoc.com/mt/archives/000231.html – – Reposted August 29th 2022 with spelling corrections]