The word “football” in Australia may be interpreted in recent years as an oval shaped ball played on a oval pitch with four large poles. This game called AFL has been an infatuation of Australians everywhere. However, football — known as soccer in these parts — has gone from strength to strength. The Australian World Cup bid, the strengthening of the local leagues, and the production of youthful exuberant footballers has coincided with this change. Not only is the code of soccer creating a legacy in Australian soccer, it’s moving on to new frontiers. Frontiers such as Asia, the Asian Cup, Asian Champions League and Asian World Cup qualifying, which have created an avenue where soccer can grow.
Australian soccer has demonstrated its mediocric rise to prominence. This can only be attributed to the growing contingent of Australians in the Barclays Premier League in the late ’90s and early to mid ’00s. Arguably the most watched league in the world, this allowed for wonderful exposure to these Australian starlets, and it was a vital ingredient for the growth in popularity of the EPL in Australia. The birth of interactive red buttons allowing one to watch numerous matches at one time, and the coverage of almost every EPL fixture all season long, allowed Australians to take notice how soccer is played at the highest level, transcending the perception of soccer in Australia and recreating a league of “our” own through this.
Also, the education of soccer in the country is ever-growing. Young people are learning and creating platforms for success through production lines of coaches, referee and soccer players. Punditry in Australia has significantly improved. This was done through the introduction of overseas pundits. The likes of Martin Tyler, Stewart Robson and Gary O’Reilly contributing to soccer opinions. Talk shows such as “The World Game” and “FOX Sports FC” have immensely improved our analysis of soccer. For examples, FOX Sports FC’s fox field feature provides viewers of the tactical plans of the managers.
Live coverage of European soccer is played at late night in the wee hours of the morning. The coverage of soccer leagues is largely one sided as the leading sports channel in Australia (FOX) largely covers English soccer. This has created an English ethos represented in Australian soccer. The colonial rulers of yesteryear have once again led and Australia has followed. However, the more technical aspect of soccer is being adopted in lower levels of Australian soccer as the obsession of the ‘total football’ displayed by Barcelona seems to be the flavor of the month. This can be seen through the brand of soccer deployed by the reigning A-league champions who play the intricate and possession based football.
Loss of real soccer identity
The soccer identity seems to be vague, obscure and unknown for Australia. The multicultural society may have contributed to this, as the contrasting soccer methods in the country allow for an ambiguous perception on the soccer identity of Australia.
Despite the questions about what is Australia’s identity on soccer, the country is a nation still young on the international scene. Attempting to qualify for their third successive World Cup and fourth in total, Australian soccer is by no means the finished article. The scope of growth is still very wide. However, what factors may spark changes? Will the current league expand? Will the likes of Mustafa Amini going to Borussia Dortmund help him grow into the soccer genius he’s lauded to be?
The future of Australian soccer is both bright and exciting, and I for one cannot wait to be apart of the ride it will provide.
Editor’s note: Ahmed made his first appearance earlier this week on the EPL Talk Podcast, where he discussed what it’s like to be an Arsenal supporter, as well as his thoughts regarding Arsene Wenger and future transfer buys. Listen to the interview today.