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FFA's Indonesia deal a watershed for Australia

Roar Guru
21st January, 2010
28
4196 Reads
Australian Danny Allsopp, left, fight for the ball with Indonesian Hariono, right, during AFC Asian Cup 2011 qualifiers Group B at Gelora Bung Karno in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009. AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim

Australian Danny Allsopp, left, fight for the ball with Indonesian Hariono, right, during AFC Asian Cup 2011 qualifiers Group B at Gelora Bung Karno in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009. AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim

I thought I was persona non grata with Football Federation Australia but at least someone appears to be reading my work, judging from the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed late last week by the FFA and its Indonesian counterpart, the Football Association of Indonesia or PSSI.

While it stops short of a joint World Cup bid, this is welcome news, one of the best things to happen to football in this country since joining Asia.

Back in 2007, I urged the FFA to start “thinking dangerously” in regard the football relationship with our huge northern neighbours and just over a click of two years on it’s finally happened.

The benefits of the five-year agreement are both tangible – coach and player exchanges, more friendlies, a leg-up for Australia into the ASEAN zone of the Asian Football Confederation – and highly symbolic.

FFA chairman Frank Lowy called it a “landmark agreement” and believes the two federations “can be important vehicles to assist in the development of relations between our two countries and their governments”.

That they can. It’s his “football diplomacy” mantra brought to life and he and FFA chief executive Ben Buckley can be justifiably proud.

Of course it’s easy to be cynical about it – would such an arrangement have been brokered if we weren’t bidding for a World Cup? – but it would also be churlish. The reasons for the deal coming to bear are really immaterial.

What’s more important is we as two very different nations – one predominantly Christian made up of a few islands, one predominantly Muslim made up of tens of thousands – embrace the opportunity football gives us to have a better relationship as people.

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Why we have such a poor understanding of a country just 500 miles to our north is one of those odd quirks of our history we should be moving heaven and earth to rectify.

That has taken football, not politics, trade or tourism, to be an agent of change in that relationship is really not surprising.

Sport, especially the world game, has a habit of breaking down barriers.

So let’s savour this small but significant moment in our history and show our appreciation by turning up (and tuning in) in droves when the Merah Putih play the Socceroos in Brisbane on March 3.

There’ll be much more than football to cheer.