Australia Must Develop More Football Talent

Attendances between two international soccer matches played in Australia in early June had a variance and it made Australian fans on social media question the amount of support the Socceroos receive.

When Australia played Saudi Arabia in a Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier in Adelaide on Thursday evening, only 29,785 people attended the game whereas the friendly between Brazil and Argentina in Melbourne on Friday night had a crowd of 95,569.

It is easy to question the lack of interest in soccer in this country if the other football codes - AFL and rugby - still attract greater popularity but if the Brazil v Argentina friendly as well as Liverpool and Real Madrid tours in recent years are anything to go by, the elite will attract huge crowds, even in a country like Australia.

If Australia wants to see those type of crowds for Socceroos matches, then this country needs to produce footballers of a higher quality than before.

Although the sport is popular at grass roots level, there needs to be better nurturing of the young talent coming through the ranks.

Fans should cheer their team through thick and thin but not everyone possesses that mindset. It is common knowledge that more people will watch a team that wins regularly than one which does not. 

For many years Australia was dominant in a number of sports and more often than not sports fans would see either the Wallabies emerge victorious in Rugby Union or the Baggy Green dominate the cricket scene.

At the Olympics it had become natural to expect Australian success in the swimming, especially with the great swimmers that rose to stardom in the 1990s and 2000s. Soccer has not had that type of impact on the population.

There was great euphoria in the mid-2000s when the Socceroos qualified for the 2006 World Cup and reached the Round of 16 but it has not been sustained, even with the team winning the 2015 Asian Cup on home soil.

 Although Australia has qualified for the last three World Cups, the sport is not going to attract great crowds if the Socceroos don't obtain great results or Australian footballers don't thrive in Europe's major leagues.

The mainstream media will continue to focus on covering the other football codes and cricket unless Australian soccer players can shake-up the establishment and outdo players from nations who are football superpowers.

This year Aaron Mooy helped Huddersfield Town gain promotion to the English Premier League through the Championship play-offs and Tom Rogic starred for Scottish giants Celtic, helping them win silverware.

This is not enough though, especially compared to the Golden Generation which contained the likes of Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Mark Bresciano, Mark Schwarzer, and John Aloisi. Those players starred in Europe's big leagues whereas the current generation need more players like Mooy and Rogic to shine in Europe.

In Australia we need more talent coming from the A-League youth teams as well as players from the state leagues. In the last decade, there was a push to develop players in the Dutch style but Australian clubs need to learn from an array of different styles of football. Investment needs to be improved too and better qualified administrators would be great so money can be invested wisely, not thrown away.

Australia plays Brazil in a friendly on Tuesday night at the MCG and it is probable that witnessing the Selecao in action will interest people more than watching the Saudis. The Brazilians have historically been a world force and they still produce outstanding talent.

If the Socceroos want more people watching them, this country needs to produce some classy players of their own so supporters can be proud of them and keep following the Australian cause.

  Originally published on the now-defunct Victoria's Ethnic Contingent on June 12, 2017.