Was this the week Australia finally became a football nation?

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By , Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    This was one of the most dramatic weeks ever in Australian football, as the world game finally made its presence felt and helped us take another step towards creating a genuine football culture.

    How could you look past the saga of Ange Postecoglou as the story of the year, let alone the week?

    His decision to step down as Socceroos coach caught everyone off guard on Wednesday – including the mainstream media, which covered the shock announcement with relish.

    For once the major outlets willingly pursued a Socceroos story, instead of delivering the faux-enthusiasm and hackneyed stereotypes we’re usually lumbered with.

    Want a measure of Postecoglou’s success? How about the fact the rest of the country cares about the national team again?

    Ange Postecoglou Football Australia Socceroos 2017

    On Tuesday, we had the FFA Cup final. It would have been worth discussing even without that incredible finish.

    But then Michael Marrone went and crash-tackled the ball boy.

    I’ve got to be honest – and with the greatest of respect to the two protagonists – but when I saw the replay, I couldn’t help but laugh. It was just such an Oz football thing to do!

    Marrone is not a dirty player. He’s one of the nicest blokes around. But all his heartfelt apologies and “sincere regrets” won’t spare him from a lengthy ban.

    Already the players’ association has slammed Football Federation Australia for citing Marrone, which probably saves the rest of us from doing so.

    To quote David Gallop, the situation was indeed “unfortunate”. But what on earth was the ball boy doing?

    How often have we seen ball kids around the world play a vital role for their team by taking an eternity to hand the ball back to the opposition, or in the case of the FFA Cup final, shielding it altogether?

    The whole thing happened in a split second and was probably as much a result of Marrone being unable to halt his momentum on the slippery touchline, as it was anything malicious.

    As for the ball boy, the fact he was on stage receiving a medal along with the triumphant Sydney FC players says everything.

    Think the Sky Blues cared about the drama? Not for a second.

    It wasn’t even the only incident involving a ball kid this week! When the Newcastle Jets thumped Melbourne Victory 4-1 overnight, a quick-thinking ball girl played a key role in Newcastle’s third.

    It was former Victory man Andrew Nabbout who had the presence of mind to take the quick throw to play in Joey Champness to score, but Nabbout only had the ball in the first place because a Jets ball girl chucked a spare one to him while the Victory defence was looking elsewhere.

    It’s a scene we’ve seen played out hundreds of times in Europe, only this time the ball girl’s antics were taking place in our humble little league.

    And I’ve got a confession to make. I love watching midweek football.

    Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – whenever. I’d venture to say I’m far more likely to be in front of my TV on a weeknight, like I was for the Matildas 3-0 win over China on Wednesday night, than I am on a Saturday afternoon.

    I feel like that’s an important distinction to make, because plenty of us – myself included – have been critical of midweek action in the past.

    But as Fox Sports’ executive producer of football Murray Shaw highlighted when he dropped me a line during the week, the lowest-rating FFA Cup final to date was the 2015 edition – and that was played on a Saturday.

    So there are no plans to move future FFA Cup finals back to a weekend any time soon.

    Adrian Mierzejewski of Sydney FC trips over Matt Simon of Adelaide United

    It just means we need to start making a habit of turning up to midweek fixtures, like fans manage to do in Europe for the UEFA Champions League.

    If nothing else, we’ve had plenty to talk about this week.

    Our football may be weird and wild at times, but at least it’s ours.

    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.