What It’s Like To Follow the Premier League From Australia

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.

7 thoughts on “What It’s Like To Follow the Premier League From Australia”

  1. “The colonial rulers of yesteryear have once again led and Australia has followed” – has Australia recently become a republic or is it still a British colony?

  2. It’s interesting to note that while football may be the most popular sport on earth, there are many massive countries where interest is low or pales far behind other sports.

    I was in Sydney during last year’s A-League Grand Final and I had a helluva time trying to find a pub showing the game and when I did I was one of the few in the place paying any attention.

    For all its growth there, soccer still seems to trail behind the NRL, the AFL, international rugby union and cricket.

  3. In response to the first comment, they aren’t a republic but it’s inevitable till they will be. They are separate from Britain and the queen substainally. And second yes it is growing, yet still is not as popular. How do you think it can be?

  4. I think the A league is doing an excellent job, soccer “football” is the most played sport in Australia.
    However when kids turn 10-12 they still swap to play rugby league or AFL as there is a perception that soccer is not tough enough, so per group pressure is still a problem. But at least now with the A league this perception can be challenged (they do play extremely tough) and there is a competition to aspire to play in. It is also great that Australian soccer is now Internationally competitive, not like when I was a kid and you had to pick a team to follow in the world cup because Australia never qualified.

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