Care about the Socceroos? It’s time to show it

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By , Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert


140 Have your say

    Have football fans in Australia forgotten what it felt like to watch Khodadad Azizi charge through on goal and slide the ball past Mark Bosnich?

    The Socceroos’ failure to qualify for the 1998 FIFA World Cup was the darkest day in Australian football history.

    When Azizi scuffed the ball beyond a despairing Bosnich, he broke the hearts of 85,000 stunned fans at the MCG and millions more watching at home on TV.

    There mustn’t be a single Australian supporter who can watch the video of that goal and not feel a sickening sense of despair in the pit of their stomach.

    It was the single worst moment in Socceroos history, and it set the game back in Australia at least a decade.

    So why don’t we feel the same way about the national team now?

    When John Aloisi fired Australia into the World Cup for the first time in 32 years, he didn’t just vanquish a worthy foe. He went some small way to mending the broken hearts of fans who wanted nothing more than to take a place on the world stage.

    And when the Socceroos ran out for that first game in Kaiserslautern, it was in front of the loudest collection of hardcore Australian supporters to ever assemble on foreign soil.

    Australia's Tim Cahill celebrates. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    So where are those fans now?

    The answers, it must be said, are obvious. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then qualifying for three consecutive World Cups is not really the way to ward off complacency.

    Much of the marketing around football in Australia talks about engaging younger fans, but some of those fans weren’t even alive to watch the Socceroos fail time after time to qualify for the World Cup.

    And for many of the fans who were, they’ve already watched the national team play on the biggest stage in Germany and South Africa and Brazil.

    So how do we re-engage those fans?

    It looked for a while like winning an Asian Cup might do the trick.

    When Israel knocked the Socceroos out of the 1990 FIFA World Cup amid scenes of farcical time-wasting at a packed Sydney Football Stadium, the thought of one day becoming Asian champions must have seemed more like a laughable pipe-dream.

    But Football Federation Australia has largely squandered whatever good will was generated by such an historic occasion.

    You know what, though? So what!

    It’s not David Gallop who’ll be lacing up the boots on Tuesday night. It won’t be Steven Lowy lining up in a new-look back three.

    There’s too much focus on the administration of the game in this country, and not enough on the actual football. And the incessant negativity is seeping into the way we support our national team.

    It’s fine to have an opinion on how the Socceroos should play. Ange Postecoglou said himself he wants to see more debate around Australia’s tactics.

    But after decades of failure, we finally have a coach who knows what it feels like to win. And after years of being condescended to by foreign tacticians, we now have one of our own at the helm.

    Ange Postecoglou Football Australia Socceroos 2017

    (AAP Image/Matt Roberts)

    So is it too much to ask to take the night off from criticising, and simply throw our support behind the national team?

    You know, the one that plays in a World Cup actually contested by more than thirteen other countries?

    It’s about time some Aussie fans remembered just how hard it is to qualify for a World Cup.

    We failed in 1966. We failed again in 1970. And we didn’t qualify once for any of the World Cups between 1978 and 2002.

    We have the chance to qualify once more for the next World Cup in Russia. But we need to see off Syria at Stadium Australia first.

    So let’s fill the stands and tune in en masse on TV.

    Because it’s a sad day in Australian sport when trying to qualify for the World Cup becomes nothing more than just another game.

    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.