Why We Stay Away

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I’m often asked by friends and countless colleagues: why aren’t you working in Australian football? After years of study – many more in support from the grassroots to the Socceroos – my answer is clear: I’m not one of those people running our game. And I’m not alone. Far from it. There are many of us.

When I grew up, I went to support my local National Soccer League (NSL) side with as much passion as any diehard today. For years, I went every other week, spent numerous hours preparing, watching, debating, cheering and loving every minute.

I’ll be the first to say what we have now in the A-League is unequivocally, a great product. Since the establishment of Football Federation Australia (FFA), there have been many key milestones; targets smashed and immeasurable progress made. A 30-second A-League commercial on FOX Sports will send shivers down your spine: a packed Melbourne Victory crowd in unison, vibrant banners and flags, and the technology available to analyse the game – all brilliant.

But it’s a facade.

It’s money. It’s not organic.

Those who have been around long enough would agree that the focal point of Australian football’s failed administration in the years prior to FFA was acts of self-interest. Clubs in it for themselves, agents in it for themselves, players playing for themselves, secularism, racism, and so on.

I was starting to think, some years back, that I could finally carve out a career in football, not overseas as suggested by some, but here in Australia.

I’ve spent the past five years studying; educating myself across a broad range of areas – coaching, psychology, sport science – where I felt I was lacking knowledge. I’ve read extensively, conducted academic research, worked on humanitarian projects, project managed FIFA events, networked well with an open mind and two open ears, and given excessive amounts of time to the game, our game – my game. Never with a defeatist attitude, always with critical analysis and measured-thinking, in consultation with some of the game’s best.

But what I see, hear and understand today, the fact still remains: acts of self-interest. I just can’t work with people who put themselves before the game. People will play the Devil’s advocate and say that it’s just human behaviour. What I’m referring to is absolute. It’s football-specific. Only time and experience, and some battle scars can prove it.

Even the Government-owned media have sold-out and are now beholden to FFA. Where the objective should be fair and balanced reporting, investigative journalism and letting the audience decide, we just get spin – dumbing-down for ratings.

The bravest man I know in Australian football – a man who’s effectively killed his career in the game in search of truth and integrity – has been hanged, drawn and quartered for debating the real issues. God I miss Half-Time Orange.

Similarly, one of the most capable female leaders in sport acrimoniously suffered the same fate. The game’s nastiest political players chewed her up and spat her out, and all she’s got to show for it are stories. At least she has a backbone, unlike the cowards who signed her execution papers.

It’s a privilege to work in sport, as it is to participate. But it seems there are two options in Australian football: conform or be blissfully ignorant. There’s no room for thinkers. Not yet. I’m hopeful there will be one day. And I’m talking about change agents who are given licence to reform without boundaries or sanction.

So, what I’ve done for now, with my commitment to football and thirst for quality, is channel my energy into lecturing. I spend my days in a classroom, meeting new and diverse people from a range of backgrounds. I share my affection for the beautiful game with them.

They give me positive energy; they’re not energy-sappers who expect long hours for shocking pay and false rewards.

People, not power, make any creative pursuit worthwhile.

2 Responses to Why We Stay Away

  1. Amazing! Well said.

  2. He or she who dares wins except when it comes to Australian football.

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