Postecoglou's pitch rant must be heeded

The problem with Australian football, much of the time, is that we’re not dealing with people who know football.


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Sure, they say they know sport – a good grasp of most codes and might even consider themselves as holding a passable knowledge of football (which they probably call soccer, blowing their cover immediately).

But ask anyone not wholly enamoured with the sport about the importance of the pitch and they’ll roll their eyes.

Being a bit pedantic, aren’t you? A little precious? Toughen up. It’s fine for everyone else.

I know our football education as a nation isn’t even close to being complete when I hear these words. Not even in the ballpark.

Ange Postecoglou has been grumbling for a while now about the state of the nation’s pitches. Not good enough, he tells us.

Until now, it’s mostly been in private. But his pre-match and post-match blow ups at the state of the ANZ Stadium turf have brought the issue to the fore.

First things first. This is not an ANZ Stadium rant – you can Google those. And after the revamp, I think we’ll get a much more effective stadium for Sydney.

But what needs a revamp now is how that pitch, and others around the country, are prepared for football matches involving what the marketers might call our "premium product" - the Socceroos.

Yes, we are in a nation that has multi-purpose facilities and yes, some of these fit the bill quite well. But football is always the sport that suffers from the traffic of other codes. Always.

I hate seeing our A-League pitches regularly churned into potato fields but at least that has improved markedly since the league began.

There have been times when places like Newcastle and Brisbane should have asked for their money back on stadium rent due to the standard of the fields before them.

Etihad Stadium seems a hell of a lot better these days – and I trust it will be up to standard on Tuesday as well. But the point remains: football always seems the poor cousin.

It’s time Football Federation Australia started getting on the front foot about this issue and I’m glad their most important employee has put the matter on the agenda.

It’s all too easy for the topic to get lost in a sea of bureaucracy and “we’ll-get-there-one-day” type mutterings.

Perhaps future contracts that the FFA sign with stadiums need clauses that invoke minimum standards on behalf of stadium operators. Real standards. Ones that make them accountable for bad pitches.

Clearly, a four-day turnaround from an NRL or rugby union match in winter is too steep. If it takes a whole week, it takes a whole week. Here’s why.

There was a back pass that went the way of Maty Ryan on Saturday night. Fairly harmless and at a relatively low speed.

He went to trap the ball from his position on the goal line, but just before he did, the ball took a bad bobble. Thankfully, Ryan's footwork is truly elite.

Had the ball bounced barely a centimetre higher, it would have skimmed off his laces and over the line. Given it was a friendly game, it would have meant nothing.

But if what if such a thing were to happen to our upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign – and it cost Australia a place in Russia?

What if our pitches were so bad that it prevented the Socceroos from playing the way Postecoglou wants – which nearly happened on Saturday night?

Both Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic wanted to rip Greece apart with the ball at their feet, only to be inhibited by divots and bumps. Over the 90 minutes, it probably saved a goal for the visitors. Think about that.

I don’t blame the stadium groundsmen for this situation. I blame our total lack of foresight as a game to make sure the scheduling is appropriate. Besides, it’s the Socceroos we’re talking about, not a local pub team.

It’s hard to believe we’re still talking about this issue in 2016, but it’s also a timely reminder of how much progress we need to make as a football nation.

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4 min read
Published 7 June 2016 at 8:50am
By Sebastian Hassett
Source: SBS