Same old Aussie…….

June 12, 2010

The recent “friendly” between the All Whites and Australia was an eye-opener for New Zealand and hopefully we will learn lessons from it for the future.

Matches between New Zealand and Australia are never friendly but its probably true to say that this one was more brutal than most.   Grella & Cahill should definitely have been sent off and Milligan too could have seen red for his disgraceful over the top tackle on Lochhead. Whilst Milligan was guilty of one bad challenge, Cahill & Grella seemed intent on injuring as many Kiwis as possible. Before his shocking challenge on Bertos, Cahill had already put his foot into Fallons back – a more than bookable offence which seems to been forgotten amidst the other challenges. Grella, of course, having attempted to cripple Bertos followed up by pulling Tim Brown down, a soft challenge, perhaps, but one which has left one of New Zealands most important players in serious doubt for our World Cup campaign.

 

But back to the Australians.

One has to question their motives in approaching the game the way they did. None of those challenges were rash, none of them accidental, each and every one of them a deliberate attempt to maim an opponent. Whilst its true that this game was worse than most, the Socceroos have never been backward in coming forward in the physical side of the game. The very fact that they started the game with Moore, Neill & Grella – three names that any fans around the world would tell you are aggressive  – implied that they weren’t taking the game lightly. Thinking back through their recent history and coming up with names such as Tiatto, Muscat & Vidmar, its obvious that what the Australians lack in ability, they are more than happy to make up in aggression.

So what can we learn?

Well one wonders what we were doing playing a local derby so close to such a major event. Who’s idea was that? Whilst we do crave playing Australia, and should match ourselves against them more often, it was pure folly to play them when we did. We just don’t have the strength in depth to risk losing key players to injury. What did we hope to gain from this game? More sensible to play the subsequent Slavic sides and Chile…sides that play similarly to the teams we will meet in South Africa… teams that have little to lose by losing to New Zealand. Local derbies anywhere in the world bring out aggression and desire….. whether it be Glasgow, North London, Milan or Rio, derbies are blood and thunder and controversy and especially passion come to the fore.  Australia in front of their home crowd – in the match billed as “The Socceroos Farewell Match” – were suddenly being made to look second rate. “Little New Zealand” took the game to them and were outplaying them all over the park. We were a goal up and had hit the post, whilst McDonald, Cahill & co were looking lost against our back three. The Australians were feeling their pride take a beating – they were being embarrassed. The only crowd you could hear was the White Noise contingent. Is it any wonder Australia reacted the way they did? The little brother was teaching the big brother a lesson….how would any big brother react?

In recent years with the Kingz, Knights & Phoenix playing in the Australian leagues, there’s been a tendency for some Kiwis to wish the Socceroos well in their world cup forays…in some kind of Anzac/Oceanic kindred spirit.

After that display at the MCG I for one will be thrilled if Australia lose all three world cup matches handsomely. And if Cahill & Grella are injured in the process…well that would be some justice.

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An Australian World Cup?

January 7, 2009

So the FFA – Football Federation Australia – have, with federal government support, thrown their hat in the ring and expressed a firm intention to bid for the right to hold the World Cup in 2018.

What astonishing naivety!

With the next world cup being held in South Africa and 2014 scheduled for Brazil, its almost guaranteed that 2018 will be in Europe. Its incomprehensible that we could have 3 consecutive world cups not hosted in Europe. To this end FIFA have also declared bids from England, Russia & joint bids from Spain & Portugal and another joint bid from the Benelux countries.

It seems obvious to me that having not hosted the tournament since 1966 – 52 years past by the time 2018 comes around – England aren’t just favourites to win the bid but are almost guaranteed the win. Particularly as they were narrow losers in the bidding race with Germany for 2006.

So the FFA come up against England and fancy their chances!!! Its laughable.

But lets play their game and pretend they have a chance to win the bid. Can Australia actually host the world cup?

Australia is a great country with many great qualities. Tourism in Australia prospers and the country has many attractions. It’s diversity from the golden sands of the Whitsundays and the Gold Coast to the rainforests of Kakadu and the pure awe of Uluru makes the country a haven for tourists and a wonderful place to visit. Even better is the exchange rate which is very favourable to visitors from Europe!

But for football – and specifically the greatest sporting show on earth – Australia is sadly lacking. Yes we all recall the success of the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006 but those events were mainly hosted in one city, not the whole country.

To my mind there are two significant hurdles which will prevent Australia from hosting the world cup and they are linked.

Stadiums. Put simply, in order to host a 32 team world cup Australia will have to build or significantly adapt up to 10 stadiums. In Germany 2006, 12 stadiums were used which all met FIFA’s minimum capacity of 40,000. Presently there are only two rectangular stadiums which meet this mark (Lang Park Brisbane & Sydney Football Stadium) and two more stadiums which can be adapted (Telstra Dome, Melbourne & Sydney Olympic Stadium). A new stadium is planned for Subiaco in Western Australia which can  also be adapted to be rectangular and that will hold 60,000.

There are some great stadiums in Australia. The MCG is superb. It’s world class. But as a ground for watching football it’s a disaster. Capacity of 100 000 but no one gets within 70 metres of the football ground. Watching football at the MCG on tv is like watching park football. You can hear the players calling for the ball and crowd noise is minimal – you cant see the crowd because the cameras don’t pan out far enough to include them! Part of football is the crowd involvement – the roars of the fans throughout and indeed the movement up and down with each goal. Not at the MCG. The same can be said for the other major grounds in Australia – The SCG, the Adelaide Oval & the Gabba in Brisbane. And lets not forget that the centre of all those grounds has an area fully developed and laid for cricket. Try playing football on that! Even if we include these 4 grounds as potential venues, Australia would still have to build another 3-4 brand new stadiums and where might they be and what possible use could they be after the cup concludes? The population of Australia doesn’t actually have a need for four more rectangular stadiums.

But just supposing FIFA ignores the oval nature of the grounds and accepts them as fit for football, how will the grounds be come available? This brings me to my second point, the Australian sporting landscape is not conducive to hosting a world cup.

The world cup is held over a four week period in June and/or July. That’s right in the middle of the Australian winter and hence the various football codes seasons. Each and every one of the 9 stadiums I have mentioned above is used every week throughout those months for major sporting fixtures. Do we really think that the AFL are going to be prepared to assign their grounds over to “soccer” for 6 or 7 weeks (including preparations? Are they going to interrupt their season to let football take precedence? For up to seven weeks??? Not likely, and to believe otherwise would suggest a lack of understanding of Australian sporting culture.

The AFL rule Australian sport. The sporting public are completely besotted with AFL and the sport dominates the media in every way shape and form. The success of the A-league and the growth in junior football is seen as a threat to AFL and there is no conceivable way that they would even consider stepping aside for football even for a massive world event. Could the government tell them to? Hmmmm I doubt it. And even if it did happen, then the AFL season would stretch into late November  a time when those very same grounds are used for cricket. So you take the grounds for one reason and throw every other sport out for a year? No way.

Admittedly it will be easier to obtain the usage of grounds used for rugby league. After all, no one cares about rugby league (except Kiwis now!) and no one goes to watch it. It wouldn’t be missed!

So whilst thoughts of a world cup closer to home is great in theory…it just ain’t going to happen.

Major Australian Grounds

(Sydney 3, Melbourne 2, Brisbane 2, Perth 1)

Melbourne Cricket Ground (oval) 100,000

Sydney Olympic Stadium (oval, can be adapted) 83,500

Subiaco Oval (WA) (can be adapted) 60,000 (proposed)

Telstra Dome, Melbourne (oval, can be adapted but has never been yet) 56,000

Lang Park, Brisbane (ideal!) 52,500

Sydney Cricket Ground (oval) 48,000

Sydney Football Stadium (ideal!) 45,500

The ‘Gabba, Brisbane (oval) 42,000

Adelaide Oval (too small) 33,600

New Melbourne Football Stadium (rectangular, under construction, too small) 31,500

Parramatta stadium (rectangular, too small) 21,000

Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide (rectangular but too small) 17000