An all too familiar combination of ego, infighting and mismanagement within Australian football is tarnishing this year’s World Cup before a ball is kicked.
For so long the unobtainable holy grail of Australian football, this county’s participation in football’s showpiece event in Russia has been reduced to an afterthought less than three months out from kick-off.
The underwhelming Socceroos qualifying campaign, and sobering reality of a national team desperately light on stars, was one thing.
There was of course also the increasingly isolated and tetchy figure being cut by Socceroos coach, Ange Postecoglou.
Yet, many assumed that the Socceroos’ ultimately securing a place at the World Cup would be the panacea for Australian football’s ills.
If nothing else, it was thought qualification would provide Postecoglou – whose tactical nous and team selections had been subjected to a media blowtorch throughout the campaign – with a mandate to lead the team in clean air for the foreseeable future.
But then when has Australian football ever been predictable.
No sooner had the dust settled on the Honduras win, Postecoglou exited stage left leaving his national football audience in stunned silence.
While media scrutiny shapes as the clear favourite, the exact reason for Postecoglou’s departure remains clouded.
Yet, it’s safe to assume that it lies somewhere within Australian football and, given the timing of his exit before the World Cup, that it was informed by a healthy dose of spite.
Needless to say this isn’t the first time that long-time bedmates, “Australian football” and “spite” have appeared in the same sentence.
Then came the hugely uninspired FFA appointment of Dutchman, Bert Van Marwijk as Socceroos coach.
After his initial (and quite possibly only) visit to Australia did little to capture this country’s hearts and minds, we recently learned that he has yet to reach out to Socceroos captain, Mile Jedinak which is surprising to say the least.
Given a relatively pedestrian, no-name Socceroos squad with little chance of making it past the group stage, surely a local coach possessing a cult of personality capable of fuelling local fan engagement and creating a headline or two was the order of the day before Graham Arnold ultimately assumes the reins.
Throw in Socceroos talisman and World Cup flag-bearer, Timmy Cahill’s rather undignified (and seemingly increasingly misguided) departure from Melbourne City to his old club, Millwall.
A thinly veiled dig at the relative professionalism of the A-League on his way out the door appeared petty for a man that was welcomed to the competition with open arms despite having previously (and very publicly) expressed his misgivings about the national league.
Then consider all this against a backdrop of the bloody civil war raging around who gets a seat at Australian football’s biggest table which has awoken ghosts of Australian football crises past.
This ongoing feud between the FFA and the A-League clubs (among others), which at one stage even appeared to threaten the Socceroos’ place at the World Cup itself, has revived fears that we are still no closer to a cohesive unifying football administration in this country.
While looking back is always a fraught exercise, it’s difficult to fathom how we have arrived at this point after the heady days of 2005.
Then, the launch of the A-League and that magical night in Sydney ending Australia’s tortuous World Cup wait appeared to represent a permanent break from the factionalism and divisiveness that had for so long dogged the round ball game in this country.
There is of course still time for the Australian public to be swept up in World Cup fervour, it will just be in spite of the minefield of distractions provided by Australian football.