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Opinion

It's high time football started to stand up for itself

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Expert
28th March, 2021
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Joe Gauci might have done enough to dislodge James Delianov from the Adelaide starting 11 for good, but football needs to think bigger if it’s to ever gain a foothold in Australia.

The Reds did just enough in their 1-0 win over a Sydney FC side that huffed and puffed and created a couple of chances without ever really looking like getting on the scoresheet.

Gauci’s stunning point-blank stop from Patrick Wood’s header was a contender for save of the season and it’ll be hard for Adelaide coach Carl Veart to drop the 20-year-old scholarship keeper from his starting side now.

There were questions from the Twitterati around referee Shaun Evans’ decision to award Adelaide a penalty for Luke Brattan’s challenge on Kusini Yengi – mainly from fans of a Sky Blue persuasion – but Craig Goodwin never looked like missing once he stepped up to the spot.

The all-action Yengi has proved a nightmare for opposing defenders with his towering presence, so much so that Alex Wilkinson and Joel King got themselves into an awful tangle in attempting to clear the cross that led to the fateful spot kick.

Kusini Yengi

Kusini Yengi. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

All in all, it was a gritty performance from the Reds, who’ve now won their last six games in succession to move into second on the ladder.

And it came on the back of a week in which some interesting comments were made about the state of the game in Australia.

Some of them came from former Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou, who in Optus Sport’s latest Football Belongs podcast pointed out that winning the Asian Cup in 2015 achieved little in terms of a lasting legacy for football.

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“There was no dinner at Kirribilli House, no honours bestowed on anybody in the group, no understanding of the magnitude of the achievement,” Postecoglou told hosts David Davutovic and John Didulica.

He said much more on the hour-long podcast, but the idea of politicians failing to understand the significance of football is one worth exploring given the fact Australia will co-host the next FIFA Women’s World Cup.

And ‘co-host’ is the operative word, because already much of the narrative around the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has written our neighbours New Zealand out of the picture.

There’s no doubt plenty of pollies will try and hitch their wagons to the World Cup, not least because the Matildas are one of the most popular sporting sides in the country.

Some of these will be the same who fight tooth and nail in any other year to prevent football from being played, or facilities from being upgraded, in their own constituencies.

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We saw examples of this sort of mindset during the week when football writer Matthew Galea’s tweet went viral about Moonee Valley City Council re-aligning Essendon Royals’ pitch without so much as bothering to inform a club that fields some 700 playing members.

Galea caused such a stir the Council later tweeted they’d be holding meetings “so we can find the best way forward,” yet this kind of dozy unconscious bias against football happens every day.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Central Coast Mariners coach Alen Stajcic then revealed his team had been unable to train last week, in part because a touch footy tournament was scheduled to take place on one of the training fields a week later!

The one shining light is the presence of Football Australia chief executive James Johnson, who’s been around the corridors of power long enough to know this kind of amateurism won’t cut it with FIFA.

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But Postecoglou is right when he says football needs to find a way to create a tangible legacy.

Some unity within the game would be a start.

But more than anything else, football needs to find a way to stand up for itself and remind those who’d like to pretend it doesn’t exist that one of Australia’s most popular sports isn’t going anywhere.