Is football part of our national sporting culture?

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By , Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    Ange Postecoglou is right when he says the Prime Minister would care about the state of a Test wicket, so why don’t Australians feel the same way about football?

    You get the sense Postecoglou is sick of sounding like a broken record when he talks about the poor quality of pitches the Socceroos are forced to play on in Australia.

    He’s mentioned it practically every single home game since he took charge, yet his pleas continually fall on deaf ears.

    It’s not so much that the powers that be don’t appear to care about the state of the surface the national team plays on – although that’s probably true – as much as they appear to have no idea what Postecoglou is even talking about.

    Why would they, when to the average Aussie sports fan ‘soccer’ was and always will be a foreign sport played by uppity interlopers?

    “I’d suggest if we created a Test wicket that suited the Indians here, that even the Prime Minister would have something to say about it,” Postecoglou said of the surface that awaits the Socceroos at the Sydney Football Stadium in twelve days’ time.

    “But it seems our team, who are trying to get to a World Cup, aren’t as important.”

    Winning an Asian Cup seems to have made little difference, for the simple reason our federal government appeared to have next-to-no understanding of what the tournament represented.

    No wonder, as Postecoglou revealed in his biography, no one bothered to officially congratulate the national team upon winning it.

    Ange Postecoglou and the Socceroos

    Little wonder, too, that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull continually lauds the AFL for taking a fixture to China.

    It should be a no-brainer that the simplest way to enhance our international relations is through a sport that everybody plays – like football.

    But then it should be equally obvious the Socceroos should play on the best possible surface at home – yet no one seems to care.

    Speak out, though, and you risk being labelled ‘negative’ for conjuring an unpopular opinion.

    That’s what happened to former Melbourne Victory media manager and one-time FFV board nominee Tony Ising earlier this week, who absolutely teed off on the newly-formed Association of Australian Football Clubs.

    Calling the formation of the AAFC nothing more than a cynical power grab, Ising didn’t hold back when he labelled the decision by dozens of state league clubs to band together a “farce”.

    “The base of power in Australian football used to rest with the top tier clubs in the NSL,” Ising raged on the ‘For Vuck’s Sake’ podcast.

    “We all know that is now no longer the case and there are certain former NSL clubs who can’t handle that fact.”

    Ising is entitled to his opinion – and it’s a sentiment he’s broached several times before – even if he ends up stepping on plenty of toes.

    But how does it look to outsiders with perhaps only a passing interest in the game, when some of the sport’s key protagonists are forever at each other’s throats?

    Is there a chance that organisations football is beholden to – like state governments and stadium managers – simply shrug their shoulders and see the sport as being more trouble than it’s worth?

    There was a story that did the rounds this week about the legendary (Brisbane) Norths winger, Fonda Metassa, written by Sydney Morning Herald sports reporter Phil Lutton.

    It was a ripping yarn that embodied the very best of Australian sports writing, and predictably it drew widespread acclaim.

    It would be nice to read some similar stories about the round-ball game – but we can’t even get the pitch right for a vital World Cup qualifier.

    And it begs the question: after four World Cups and an Asian Cup triumph, is football any closer to being accepted as a bona fide part of Australian sporting culture?

    Because for all the bombast and rhetoric, sometimes it feels like the loudest sound we can hear is our game tilting against windmills.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.