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

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, 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.

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    The Crowd Says (140)

    • October 9th 2017 @ 6:29am
      melbourneterrace said | October 9th 2017 @ 6:29am | ! Report

      Its truly sad to see mike. After about 2008 the roos managed to lose not only their hardcore fans but a lot of the new football crowd that followed.

      FFA have worn out a lot of the patience with the born and bred fans whilst putting off everyone with terrible venue choices, rubbish atmosphere and ticket prices as the quality of the team has declined.

      I know a lot of people who said the Japan game at Etihad was the last straw for them. Now the only ones left en masse are cushy middle class families and bandwagoners from other codes rather than the raucous desperate horde that the national team has fed off for big games.

      • October 9th 2017 @ 7:26am
        punter said | October 9th 2017 @ 7:26am | ! Report

        ‘the quality of the team has declined’.

        I’ve never understood this, I wonder if some people watch football. Maybe the quality of the team stayed still, while the rest of the world has improved.

        I watched the Columbia v Paraguay game on weekend, both could end up 5th & in playoff for Sth American, both teams would beat the Socceroos of 2005 or even the Uruguay team of that era 5 nil at least.

        • October 9th 2017 @ 8:27am
          AGO74 said | October 9th 2017 @ 8:27am | ! Report

          You can say the same of Asian teams as well Punter – obviously not of the quality of the South Americans but their rate of improvement is clearly noticeable to those who have watched the last decade.

          • October 9th 2017 @ 10:21am
            punter said | October 9th 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

            Exactly Ago, this is why we have to get to the 21st century, skill wise, touch, vision & skill.

        • October 9th 2017 @ 9:27am
          melbourneterrace said | October 9th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

          Nah even if it is true that everyone around us has improved, particularly in the AFC, you cannot argue that the current team has better individual quality than 10 years ago.

          • October 9th 2017 @ 10:20am
            punter said | October 9th 2017 @ 10:20am | ! Report

            Outside of Kewell & Viduka, there is not that much different.
            We never had any players with high skill in the final 3rd outside of these 2 players.

            10 years ago we had more players playing in better competitions & they were strong fit professionals, but they were not more skillful after the 2 players above. The difference between Neill & Sainsbury, Bresc & Mooy, Emerton & Leckie is not as great as you think.

            • October 9th 2017 @ 10:44am
              AGO74 said | October 9th 2017 @ 10:44am | ! Report

              I do agree. I also think that there is something else which contributed to this as well. From about 2000-2009 you had the cumulative years of nsl in its death throes/lost years with no professionalism/early years of a-league when youth development and pathways were non existent. Virtually all the national team of today came through that period. Very very different to what we saw with quality youth production of earlier nsl years and now where a greater investment is made in youth football and pathways to professionalism are more readily avail plus of a higher quality than in that 10 year period.. It’s a more complex debate than what I’ve noted but it’s no surprise this seeming stagnantation has occurred whilst others have improved (that and Anges insistence on back 3!).

            • October 10th 2017 @ 5:57pm
              me too said | October 10th 2017 @ 5:57pm | ! Report

              sorry, completely disagree. the current team has no one of the quality of Kewell, Viduka,
              Schwarzer, Bosnich, Bresciano, Grella, Moore, Neil, Emerton, Aloisi, or a younger Cahill.

              Even our next level players in that period contained better players tham most of the current mob.
              Zeljko KALAC, goalkeeper, Roda JC (Holland), Scott CHIPPERFIELD, Basel (Switzerland) Stan LAZARIDIS, Birmingham City (England), Kevin MUSCAT, Wolverhampton Wanderers (England) Tony POPOVIC, Crystal Palace (England) Tony VIDMAR, Glasgow Rangers (Scotland), Paul OKON, Middlesbrough (England) Josip SKOKO, Racing Genk (Belgium) Danny TIATTO, Manchester City (England), Paul AGOSTINO, TSV 1860 Munich (Germany) Mile STERJOVSKI, Lille (France), David ZDRILIC, Unterhaching (Germany), Jason Cullina, PSV (Holland), Ned Zelic, 1860 München (Germany)

              Only Mooy and mayne Leckie would fit into that list, with rosy coloured glasses maybe allowing an in form Kruse. Sinclair potential but needs to establish himself somewhere.

              On top of that Australia birthed or bred players like Ante Seric (Croatia), Josip Simunic (Croatia), Joey Didulica (Croatia), Sasa Ilic (Serbia and Montenegro), and of course Christian Vieri – all in that same time period.

              Our current problems stem from the fact we are no longer producing many world class players who are capable of playing on the biggest stages in Europe.

        • October 9th 2017 @ 1:30pm
          vin said | October 9th 2017 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

          wasnt the FFA’s promise when they took over was to replenish the socceroos and keep up with the rest of the world?
          the FFA has spent 10x more money than the previous shambolic governing body and got little reward for it.

          we are only as good as the players we have, very rarely does a team with no stars do well on the international stage,

          Kewell or viduka would put away most of those chances given to Juric, this is why we still have to reply on Goldern era Timmy at 37

          • October 9th 2017 @ 2:03pm
            Nemesis said | October 9th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

            “Kewell or viduka would put away most of those chances given to Juric, this is why we still have to reply on Goldern era Timmy at 37”


            Are you too young to remember AUS vs Iran in Nov 1997, at the MCG?

            I remember Viduka missing a relative sitter in Montevideo in 2001 when the score was still 2-0 & just 1 goal would’ve put Australia through to WC2002.

            • October 9th 2017 @ 3:52pm
              vin said | October 9th 2017 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

              I remember all that too, was there at both games
              Kewell and dukes missed these chances in Play offs, they didnt have the privelledge in playing 10 games in a round robin.
              Juric plays in Lucerne because thats all hes good for at the moment, whether he can reach the peaks of kewell viduka or cahill, who knows

          • October 9th 2017 @ 2:05pm
            chris said | October 9th 2017 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

            Kewell missed a sitter as bad as Leckie’s miss the other night. Have a look at Brazil v Australia 2006 group match highlights.

            • October 9th 2017 @ 2:17pm
              punter said | October 9th 2017 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

              I remember it well, no GK, he just snapped at it.

              • October 9th 2017 @ 2:44pm
                chris said | October 9th 2017 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

                That would have made it 1-1!

      • October 9th 2017 @ 8:44am
        Dan Murphy said | October 9th 2017 @ 8:44am | ! Report

        Are people citing ticket prices as a disincentive actually going to games? A family ticket for the Thailand game cost $54 for four people to attend. I think I paid around the same for 1 ticket to the Iran game 20 years previous. Support your nstional team. Stop whinging

        • October 9th 2017 @ 9:29am
          melbourneterrace said | October 9th 2017 @ 9:29am | ! Report

          The game against Thailand was probably the only time that ticket prices have been reasonable in the last 10 years. One game in the last 10 years does not make up for a decade of fans being treated like cash cows.

          • October 9th 2017 @ 9:52am
            AGO74 said | October 9th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

            Wrong. I paid $35 to sit behind the goal against UAE. You can get family of 4 tix for as little as $60 tomorrow (cat D) or $80 (cat C). Stop looking for excuses mate.

      • October 9th 2017 @ 4:58pm
        Redsback said | October 9th 2017 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

        What is frustrating about a lot of the comments on here is that the “hardcore” football fans give off a better than thou, unwelcoming vibe. Having lived overseas for most of the time the A-League had been going and not following a particular European team, the Socceroos are the closest thing I’ve got to a team in football.

        The thing is, if I lived in Sydney, I would almost certainly be going tomorrow with my family. What I can take from this message is that we wouldn’t be particularly welcome there, because we’re not hardcore enough.

        I remember, as a “hardcore” rugby fan, when the Wallabies were popular and would pull 110,000 in Sydney and sell out every stadium they played at in Australia. I also recall thinking at the time how I would prefer it if the casual fans weren’t there and that it would be more enjoyable for me – a hardcore rugby fan – if the spectators would clap and shout at the appropriate times, instead of at the wierd things that casual fans found impressive. I was wrong as are those of you who push back on the interest of the caudal Australian sports fan. The Socceroos would be better off with 82,000 people going, half of which watch the game occasionally at best than having only 30-40,000 hardcore fans rock up. For most Australians, we are capable of enjoying more than one sport – you gain nothing by turning is away.

        • October 9th 2017 @ 5:05pm
          Nemesis said | October 9th 2017 @ 5:05pm | ! Report


          I totally empathise with your predicament. For the same reason, I am no longer inclined to got to Rugby, RL, cricket, or Aussie Rules.

          I find the hard core fans to be unwelcoming to certain ethnic groups. It’s a shame, because I know Aussies are meant to enjoy watching men coward punch each other without risk of being charged with a crime.

          • October 9th 2017 @ 5:41pm
            Redsback said | October 9th 2017 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

            That’s a bizarre comment which basically just reinforces what I’m saying. I don’t suggest that rugby has right, but I honestly think that the supporters have moved on from caring about who goes to the game. Even Mike, who is a pretty good Australian football journalist, invited these sorts of comments from the nature of his article.

            Having gone to world cup qualifiers in With America, as a casual and almost neutral observer, the difference between Australian football fans – who only seem to want hardcore supporters there – and those of a country where riots break out when their world cup journey comes to an end, is astounding. Hardcore football countries welcome the fact that people want to go to their matches to enjoy the atmosphere as much as to watch the game. Something is off here if the hardcore fans would prefer 40000 empty seats than to have them.filled with casual supporters who are nonetheless supporting the home team.

          • October 9th 2017 @ 6:21pm
            Tommo said | October 9th 2017 @ 6:21pm | ! Report

            Disagree with your comments about men punching each other and not being charged. Was in Melbourne for the AFL grand Final. 160,000 at the parade. 100,000 plus at the game. Pubs and clubs with supporters from all clubs enjoyoying the atmosphere. No damage to public property. No damage to the MCG. No one thrown out. Very few police, and none seperating rival clubs.

            • October 9th 2017 @ 6:57pm
              Nemesis said | October 9th 2017 @ 6:57pm | ! Report

              Cars in Swan Street were vandalised, shops were damaged, fans rampaged through the Bottle Shop & stole items, people had to be subdued with pepper spray.

              Victoria Police admitted they completely lost control of public order in Swan Street.

              The most disgusting behaviour I’ve ever noticed by any sports fans after. Even Collingwood fans didn’t just smash cars for no reason.

              • October 9th 2017 @ 7:08pm
                Tommo said | October 9th 2017 @ 7:08pm | ! Report

                Cars are vandalised all over the world. Dare say a car was damaged in Tasmania on the same day, even though it had nothing to do with the G/F.

                As usual you failed to comment about the low number of police and good crowd behaviour at the parade, ground,and pubs. But then again finding fault with other sports is not you.

    • October 9th 2017 @ 6:46am
      chris said | October 9th 2017 @ 6:46am | ! Report

      Mike journalists in general, place too much importance on the admin and governance of the game. Most fans couldnt give a toss about it. Yes we have become complacent about qualifying. That doesn’t mean we have stopped supporting the national team. I’ll be there tomorrow night and so will my family.

      • October 9th 2017 @ 7:02am
        AR said | October 9th 2017 @ 7:02am | ! Report

        I agree with that chris.

        The vast majority of supporters couldn’t give a rats about Gallop, Lowy, the FFA Congress or the recent political woes. Sure, we talk about it on this site, but we’d represent about 2% of the supporters.

        The truth is, qualifying for a World Cup isn’t the aching dream that it was 10+ years ago. Supporters *have* become complacent. And soon, when it expands, the majority will become even more complacent as qualification is “easier”.

        • October 9th 2017 @ 9:22am
          chris said | October 9th 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

          Yes AR what you say is probably true. And despite all that football will continue to grow.
          People want to follow a team (socceroos) that is tested against the worlds best.
          Winning a gold medal at the upcoming Commonwealth games has less appeal than what it did say 30 years ago.

          • October 9th 2017 @ 10:26am
            punter said | October 9th 2017 @ 10:26am | ! Report

            Chris, nor an Olympic gold, look at Kyle Chalmers, wins the blue riband Olympic event, is he even close to being as revered as a Thorpe or Perkins or even a O’Neill.

            As Waz says times have changed.

            • October 9th 2017 @ 5:43pm
              AR said | October 9th 2017 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

              It’s a fair point.

              Duncan Armstrong became a national hero after winning the 200 fly in ’88.

              Most people would know who Lyle Chalmers is – and he won the biggest Olympic swim event as a high school student.

        • October 9th 2017 @ 10:02am
          Mahler said | October 9th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

          We are not the only ones missing out…even Holland can’t make it this time!

          • October 9th 2017 @ 3:53pm
            vin said | October 9th 2017 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

            Holland aint playing easy beats in asia are they.

            • October 9th 2017 @ 3:58pm
              chris said | October 9th 2017 @ 3:58pm | ! Report

              Yes but Vin was is your point in all of these comments that you make? We know that we dont have players of the calibre of Kewell and Viduka. We know we are struggling as a team. Theres no point complaining and repeating the same old same old every time. Teams with a lot better pedigree also have cycles of struggling. We are no different.

            • October 9th 2017 @ 4:01pm
              punter said | October 9th 2017 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

              Australia is also no Holland either, we have never ever gone close to producing players like they do. Dukes & Harry would be lucky to get in their top 100 players of all time as for the rest lucky to be in top 300.

            • October 9th 2017 @ 7:50pm
              Patrick said | October 9th 2017 @ 7:50pm | ! Report

              It wasn’t particularly too difficult – outside of France and Sweden the rest was Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg…

              • October 9th 2017 @ 10:50pm
                Michael said | October 9th 2017 @ 10:50pm | ! Report

                They still had to beat France and Sweden; they’ve ended up finishing ahead of the others so I’m not sure what your point is. That said Bulgaria would give the Socceroos a good run for their money

    • October 9th 2017 @ 7:27am
      Waz said | October 9th 2017 @ 7:27am | ! Report

      Times and people change. It’s unrealistic to expect today’s generation to feel the way the desperate generation did.

      This team, along with the Matildas is one of the FFAs main assets, and they need to connect it with the nation – the tag line ‘1 team, 24 million fans’ just feels like a clever marketing tag-line rather than a statement of fact or bold intention.

      How they change that I don’t know; I the read the complaints about ticket prices etc. but it’s all foreign to me, we don’t see them in QLD any more, but it can’t be that hard – there’ll be 30,000+ at ANZ tomorrow night and a cracking national tv audience which, should we win, will be bettered the next time around … and you only have to look at the Matildas to see the passion is stil there!

      • October 9th 2017 @ 8:21am
        AGO74 said | October 9th 2017 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        Not a go at you Waz but i’m sick of complaints about cost of tickets (I see this in the other sport I follow NRL). You can get a family of 4 in category C tickets for $80. If you are really hard up then you are unable to go anyway (and fair enough) but otherwise these tix (behind the goal) are very good value for what is our biggest match since the Asian cup final. Next complaint will be on the choice of venue….

        I swear Australians are amongst the world biggest bunch of whingers ever. Want everything spoon fed.

        • October 9th 2017 @ 10:26am
          Waz said | October 9th 2017 @ 10:26am | ! Report

          I haven’t been to a Socceroos game since the Asian Cup so I wouldn’t know personally. But people are sensitive to ticket pricing although looking at some of the comments today they do appear to be getting it right.

        • October 10th 2017 @ 8:48am
          Fadida said | October 10th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

          Try living in Tasmania then! $500 to get to qualifiers, even the Iran game. Flights, tickets accommodation. Next to us would be locals moaning about the price of the beer!

          And we never blamed FFA…

      • October 9th 2017 @ 9:27am
        j,binnie said | October 9th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        Waz – It’s a bit of a gamble for sure, but 90,000 (attendance or Liverpool game) at $25 per head equals $2,250,000.
        30000 at $50 equals$1,500,000
        Was there ever a more important game played in Australia then the upcoming game against Syria.?
        The answer to that question takes us back to those Iran and Uruguay games that Mike mentions both attended by like crowds to the Liverpool match.
        Where does one look for the “thinking’ that governs the marketing of the game at international game? Cheers jb..

        • October 9th 2017 @ 10:27am
          Waz said | October 9th 2017 @ 10:27am | ! Report

          You would think there’d be 65,000+ there tomorrow night wouldn’t you, if not a full house.

          • Columnist

            October 9th 2017 @ 12:38pm
            Mike Tuckerman said | October 9th 2017 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

            They’re expecting around 40,000.

            • October 9th 2017 @ 1:45pm
              Waz said | October 9th 2017 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

              So 35,000 in reality then ?

              It’s almost like there’s been too many games in Sydney and people can’t be bothered or something??

    • October 9th 2017 @ 7:34am
      Buddy said | October 9th 2017 @ 7:34am | ! Report

      I have always thought that the down side of moving from Oceania to Asia to qualify is a sense of entitlement and the notion that whilst the number of games and practice gained is far greater, it is actually easier to qualify. Losing play offs to Israel, Iran, Scotland and suchlike whilst feeling unfair at the time, always provided a reality check as to where the country stood in footballing terms. The move to asian qualifying whilst not providing minnows such as Samoa and the various Pacific nations, appeared to throw up a relatively straightforward pathway. With the number of spots available and only having Japan, ROK, and maybe Iraq or Iran as obstacles has sent the thinking the wrong way and in Sydney in particular, where many games are scheduled, the sporting public does not get excited or motivated by the procession of nations that the Socceroos have faced since the change. There is definitely a sense of “they have to turn up to win” and” do I want to part with $100 to go and watch Aus v Jordan?
      What has been discovered along the way is that for 2018, the strength of opposition and the will to win by opponents has been far stronger and when combined with the level of complacency/lack of motivation and with the general lack of “know how” shown by recent Socceroos sides, the pathway is not so straightforward. However, even now when it is all in the balance, is there really a desire to say “I was there for that match against Syria” in the same way that ANZ lit up on that night against Uruguay and Sydneysiders plus visitors united as one and really got behind the national team that night?

    • October 9th 2017 @ 8:25am
      AGO74 said | October 9th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      I’m going. Am I totally happy with how we are playing? No. But I remember still all the bad years of national team in wilderness. I will never forget and I will be there to cheer them on. Go the Socceroos!

    • Roar Rookie

      October 9th 2017 @ 8:35am
      Lancey5times said | October 9th 2017 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      Unfortunately the average Australian supporter is this guy,

      “Hi, I’m Phil and I’m a sports fan. My afl team plays finals every year that I watch and my kid has a Mariners shirt. We don’t get to many games due to traffic and other stuff so there is no point forking out for a membership. As if those big businesses need my money anyway. In January I love watching the tennis and am such an expert that I know the last Aussie to win the Aus Open. Just don’t ask me who is currently number one, I’m too focused on horse racing for the next couple of weeks. How good is Winx!!

      It’s so good that the Aussie teams play in World Cups as well. I like watching them. The soccer one is funny though with all its qualification stuff but it seems like more of a problem for other countries that aren’t as good as us. Probably should be more like the Rugby and Cricket though. It’s not a real World Cup unless we’ve won one hey? I think there is a game on tomorrow night that my kid wants to watch. Hopefully it’s still going when the Block finishes. I may just give it a miss and wait till the actual World Cup starts. Hope we get to play the Poms in the final. Where is it this year? Should be here”

      • October 9th 2017 @ 8:52am
        Buddy said | October 9th 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        I met him yesterday afternoon on the train going to watch WSW. He had his children with him and they had been given free tickets by some club fox mascot thingy and as it included free travel by train, he didn’t want to waste them. I saw him afterwards on the way home and he said it was an ok experience but not exactly Barcelona was it and when pressed he said his next game would be when invited to a corporate box at Allianz. Guess there’s plenty out there!

      • October 9th 2017 @ 9:03am
        chris said | October 9th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

        haha probably spot on. Average aussie sports fan aims low and pats himself on the back when we win the ashes.

      • October 9th 2017 @ 10:26am
        punter said | October 9th 2017 @ 10:26am | ! Report

        Exactly & well put!!!!