Socceroos deserve a national football stadium

The never-ending saga of football having to put up with embarrassing pitches across the country has come to a head: Australia needs a proper and exclusive football stadium to match the best in the world.


Australia players celebrate the winning goal against Greece Source: AAP

Ange Postecoglou's Socceroos are champions of Asia and quite simply the players do not deserve to be insulted by being asked to play on such poor surfaces as that of ANZ Stadium at the weekend.

"I don't know what you want me to say," exasperated captain Mile Jedinak said when asked if he felt offended that top professionals had to perform on such a pitch.

The Crystal Palace captain had just led Australia to a 1-0 victory over Greece in an international match that was hampered by heavy rain that fell on Sydney in the previous 24 hours.

Postecoglou said he was embarrassed by the state of the pitch and his captain echoed his sentiments.

"The pitch was pretty shocking to be honest and as a Sydneysider it was not something I could be proud of," Jedinak said bluntly. "It's not he way the game should be presented and something needs to be done."

Now that the Socceroos have reached a level of performance and achievement that has raised the country's profile and reputation overseas, is it time for the football family to stand up, say 'enough is enough' and demand a purpose-built football stadium to meet the needs of a growing sport?

Postecoglou said the Socceroos did not have to prove themselves on the international stage to be justified in expecting proper pitches on which to play and host other countries.

As a sporting country Australia should do better than serve up surfaces that make refined football practically impossible.

Expecting Tom Rogic, Robbie Kruse or Aaron Mooy to play on such pitches is like asking Usain Bolt to run on egg shells.

In the old days of semi-professionalism, sub-standard surfaces at home might have been a great leveller and given the Australians an advantage.

But today the Socceroos play a different and more polished game based on skill, flair and quick passing so bad pitches actually hamper our national team.

Yet by whingeing about it we're not going to get anywhere. We've been doing this for decades.

The football family as a whole must unite and demand firm and meaningful action.

Federal Government must step in and do the right thing by the thousands of football fans in this country who, according to Postecoglou, were cheated on Saturday by being presented with poor quality football even though they paid a handsome price for the privilege of watching an international match.

A national stadium in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane needs to be built to accommodate the surging Socceroos' needs.

Football Federation Australia should move the issue from the 'too hard' basket and chip in and co-fund a proper venue that can be used for major international matches, A-League grand finals and other crowd-pulling games involving foreign club sides.

A national stadium would save us the ignominy of having to play a grand final at a cricket ground, for starters.

Only by having absolute control of a venue will the game be assured of a surface to make Australia proud and give the Socceroos the best chance of expressing themselves to the best of their ability.

I just refuse to accept that in this day and age the notion of a football stadium is too fanciful or an impossible dream.

Countries with far lesser budgets than that of Australia have proper football stadiums so why cannot we have one too?

The government came under heavy artillery for funding Australia's pathetic bid to stage the World Cup to the tune of $45 million.

So football cannot really expect to go cap in hand to Canberra to ask for a football stadium with a pitch to match.

Can you imagine the howls of protest from other sports who would claim preferential treatment?

Yet what is often overlooked in the matter is the fact that, as a true world game, football needs to be and needs to be seen to be a properly run professional sport with a decent venue for the Socceroos to call home.

It is not good for a proud sporting country like Australia to be seen as unable to provide a proper pitch for a football match.

Football is the game that matters most to most people in the world and politicians who might be afraid of upsetting the more established sports in the country or who still see football as the 'foreign' game that is largely irrelevant to many Australians would do well to realise this and act accordingly, even for their own benefit.

Football fans, let alone the players themselves, are sick and tired of having to put up with sub-standard pitches across the country.

Costs would be massive - perhaps even prohibitive - but the bottom line is that football has no choice any more.

Only by having a national stadium in one of our biggest cities will Australian football finally be able to say that it has truly arrived as a major sport.

The Socceroos face Greece again at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne on Tuesday night.

Hopefully, the pitch will hold up alright and won't embarrass us. We should not hold our breath.

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5 min read
Published 6 June 2016 at 11:01am
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS