Are cultural affiliations still holding back Australian football?
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A loss to Jordan in the latest World Cup Qualifying campaign has been the final kick in the guts for many Australian football supporters, with calls for change vented in anger at almost all involved.
However, as Australia continues to struggle at the demise of its ‘golden era’, what is holding us back to the point where many fans see recent results as a backwards step?
To put the progress of Australian football development into context, I believe it is important to recognise the Socceroos ‘golden generation’ as exactly that. A team consisting of various world-class players who developed within an amateur national sport.
This was not the ideal footballing nation for any player to become a world-class athlete, making the plights of the Viduka, Kewell, Schwarzer, Emerton and more recently Cahill so impressive.
So as the next generation struggle to cope with the game at an international level, where does the gap in Australia’s footballing development lie?
Australia’s grassroots football is in good shape in terms of numbers, with the highest participation for an organised sport.
The common move from players in local clubs is up to the district representative side and possibly state league teams, many of which still hold strong cultural links.
In being involved and attending games within these culture-strong clubs, passion for football is arguably unmatched. However, the development links many of these state clubs have with the A-League are questionable at best.
The purpose of this article is not to single out or point fingers at any clubs but merely to ask the question, so I will not proceed to name any clubs.
In rugby league (as one example), there is a natural progression right up to the NRL division. However this gap in Australian football seems to be holding back the development of our up and coming generations, hurting the (potential) quality of the A-League.
In some cases, state premier league clubs have seemingly built an elite development framework completely within their club, where the A-League is not recognised as a future step, instead Europe the next option.
And to be honest, for many individual players, they will most probably benefit more from those experiences abroad.
However, until these clubs accept a Football Federation Australia lead structure where they are identified as feeder clubs to the A-League (as THE premier level), the development of Australia’s next generation of Socceroos may struggle to reach the expectations of our passionate fans.
Can we afford to wait until the next golden generation?
The same concept can be applied to the fans of these state league teams. Now please don’t get me wrong, I think the passion for these local clubs is fantastic (despite the work of a very small proportion of idiots), however these fans through general discussions are not accepting of the A-League or an A-League team.
One would think the state of Australia’s football affairs could only benefit from a joint focus from the nation’s football supporters, however the strong cultural links to other clubs make this a difficult task.
As an Australian football supporter with a cultural background myself, I am not criticising cultural links, however I wonder whether a greater focus on Australian football as a whole instead of the colours of a club’s flag could get Australia onto that next level of international competition.
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