One step forwards, one step sideways for football in 2011

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Oman's Mohammed Abdullah Mubarak Al Balushi (left) and Rashid Juma Mabarak Al Farsi tackle Australian Socceroos player Brett Holman. AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

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As Daniel Severino wheeled away from the penalty spot on Boxing Day, having just condemned Brisbane Roar to their fifth straight defeat, I couldn’t help but feel it was an appropriate way to wrap up an eventful year for the game in Australia.

12 months ago the game was still reeling from a shambolic end to Australia’s 2022 World Cup bid, and the reality we’d lost a race we never could have won.

However, the sense of dread that permeated Australian football in the days following the announcement of Qatar’s successful bid proved to be misguided.

The A-League is still here, and while football remains on shaky ground, the end game is yet to have arrived.

In other words, by the end of the year, the change that did occur seemed to end up being replaced by the familiar.

Much like Brisbane Roar’s last 12 months.

Following Monday’s 1-0 loss to Gold Coast United, the darlings of the A-League have dropped to third place, having now gone five games without a win.

Yet while the Roar are far from finished, the legacy of this side will be written in the effect they’ve had on the rest of the competition.

By raising the bar, the rest of the league had to improve.

For once the A-League champions haven’t fallen back into the rest of the pack. Instead, everyone else has caught up with them.

The Roar’s effect on domestic football is something of a microcosm of what has happened to the game at large in 2011 – a year that’s been all about gradual steps.

Three years after it was first conceived, Football Federation Australia finally got around to appointing its Panel of Football Historians. Unfortunately it did so days after it had completely missed the centenary of the local game’s federation.

The A-League made some key changes to the way the fixtures are set up, but failed to address the significant troubles in the competition’s foundations.

FFA rode out the storm of a governmental report into the game’s administration, but questions remain over the peak body’s plans moving forward.

A new online and social media campaign was launched by FFA, but had numerous teething issues.

During the Asian Cup the Socceroos helped to reunite a code splintered by a troubled World Cup campaign, a stuttering domestic competition and the 2022 World Cup bid, though the national side fell just short in the final.

The A-League grand final was another enthralling example of football’s potential in Australia, but it came after one of the worst seasons in the league’s short history.

These are just a few examples of a year in which the game seemed only able to move forward when there were caveats attached.

An asterisk at the end of every positive sentence. A good year, not a great one. A moment of stabalisation and recovery following great loss.

Not quite stuck in place, football took one step sideways for every step forwards.

At least that bloody animated kangaroo was nowhere to be seen and, for now, that will do me.

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