Choosing a topic for my regular Tuesday football column on The Roar never proved as difficult as it did over the weekend just passed.
With two A-League matches slated for Monday in serious doubt and as more and more state and territory governments made announcements in regards to border protection and pending lockdowns, talking about the beautiful game seemed somewhat secondary.
However, there had already been plenty of quality action. Melbourne City’s women completed a predictable triumph in the W-League grand final on Saturday, the Brisbane Roar continued their golden run with a win against the Jets on Friday and the Wanderers successfully navigated a season of Sydney derbies without a loss, something on which the bookies would have been offering long odds.
Yet tapping away and reviewing the goings on in Australian football over the weekend seemed rather meaningless considering world events and the ever-changing domestic situation. Monday’s match between City and Newcastle did eventually take place yet could well be the final Australian football match played for many months.
The AFL and NRL have had their desperate attempts to ‘contingency’ their way into their seasons curtailed and the A-League will surely follow first thing Tuesday morning. Ironically, and at the time of writing, each and every professional player across all three codes is currently in good health.
However, such decisions were and are inevitable and the focus is now on the future and the potential of a virus that will forever change the globe. Those concerns will now terminate an A-League season that was looming as something not to be missed.
Sydney FC as runaway leader had every right to ‘shotgun’ the championship, Perth’s ability to challenge was being questioned and Wellington were looming as the real danger. Melbourne City looked solid and a host of teams were jockeying for the final two spots in the six.
Now it all means little, and the psychological impact is immediately noticeable both for me and probably most of you.
Football brings me joy. Sheer joy.
Not just the simple contentment or satisfaction gained from an enjoyable meal or a successful business transaction but something far deeper and more profound. The 90-odd minutes that take place on millions of pitches across the globe produce far more primal and innate feelings that warm the soul in ways that few endeavours can.
In reading this piece you are most likely of a similar mind; one who shares an utter obsession with and passion for the most pure of games.
Realising that I will be without football for some time brought a genuine sadness over me. It also made me reflect on the players and moments that draw us to football in our billions.
We watch and love the players and construct a mental romance with the moments that shape our unique football narrative.
For me, it was West Ham United’s Frank McAvennie and Tony Cottee. My father and I adopted the London-based club in the late 1970s, saw them win an FA Cup, gain promotion to the top flight and be relegated less than a decade later.
Scotsman McAvennie was a star, scoring 49 league goals in 153 games for the club, while Cottee managed 115 successful strikes in 279 matches. Both enjoyed two stints at West Ham and entrenched my love for the oft hapless Hammers.
During the 1980s I sat up late for the ABC’s one-hour English FA highlights package on what I think was Friday nights to see the genius of players like Matthew Le Tissier, Ian Rush and Paul Gascoigne. I rarely missed SBS’s Serie A highlights on Sunday mornings, and I soaked up Les Murray’s World Soccer on Sunday afternoons, a program that brought Brazilian, Dutch, German and Argentinian football to many Australians for the first time.
World Cups came and went and Australian football lamented its lack of involvement until 16 November 2005 changed everything.
The names that drew me ever closer to the game during that era form a pantheon of modern football history. Ruud Gullit, Michel Platini, Maradona, Roberto Baggio, Zico, Marco van Basten and Gary Lineker. I get goosebumps just typing their names.
A host of other characters also provided great entertainment, sometimes for all the right and wrong reasons. Teddy Sheringham, Ossie Ardiles, Eric Cantona, Vinnie Jones and Carlos Valderrama are all etched in my football memory and forever will be.
It now appears likely we will all be doing nothing other than calling on those memories for the short-term future, and the emotional space created by a lack of football will be filled in a variety of different ways.
In the spirit of solidarity and support I’d like to read about your names, your heroes and your football journey. Comment below and let’s start a football conversation about the greats, the moments and the villains who drew us to the game and will forever keep us enthralled by it.