• Aaron Mooy of Shanghai Port (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Graham Arnold’s decision not to call Aaron Mooy for June’s World Cup qualifiers has been appreciated in China for a number of reasons.
By
John Duerden

28 May 2021 - 4:32 PM  UPDATED 28 May 2021 - 4:32 PM

The Australian coach has allowed the Shanghai Port midfielder to return home to see family rather than head to Kuwait to take on the hosts, Jordan, Kuwait and Nepal in the remaining games in Group of qualification. With four wins from the first four games, the Socceroos are on course for a place in the third stage.

"Aaron being in China, being on his own, away from his family, he hasn't seen his wife or kids for four months. The family haven't been able to get into China. Aaron, felt he had to see his family. I support that 100 per cent,” Arnold told Fox Sports earlier this week.

"Family is number one in life and Aaron is so committed to the Socceroos and was put in a position where if he didn't go and see his family now he wouldn't have seen them for 12 months. So again, I support that 100% and can't wait to see Aaron back in camp in the third phase in September."

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With Shanghai Port going for the Chinese Super League title and Mooy an increasingly influential part of the team, there is a relief at the club that the midfielder, who arrived in China last August from Brighton and Hove Albion in the Chinese Super League, will not be playing four games in the June heat of the Middle East.

“Mooy has become a big part of coach [Ivan] Leko’s plans, especially in attack compared to last season so we are happy to see that he will take a break instead of travelling to Kuwait,” a Shanghai official told The World Game. “The league has stopped for a month so it is a good time for Mooy to go home. We expect that he will return for either or the game against Wuhan (on June 23) or Hebei (six days later). We are looking forward to seeing him come back to China full of energy."

Arnold’s understanding of Mooy’s situation has been hailed in the local media too. Chinese clubs and the national team have not been known for putting the needs of the player first. The actions of Australia have been contrasted with those of China where the national team, whose players have already spent a large part of the past 15 months confined to hotels, have been holed up in a special training camp ahead of the upcoming crucial World Cup qualifiers, the first of which is against Guam on Sunday.

“It is difficult to imagine this happening in China,” said Shanghai Radio News. “Mooy is one of Australia’s most important players and that means he would be called up in China but Australia’s coach understands that the mental health of the player is very important too. This is a decision for the long-term as it means that Mooy will be fresher and happier and not just for Shanghai but when Australia have more difficult games in the latter stages of World Cup qualification.”

There is some understanding however that the Socceroos are in a better position than China, who are in second in Group A, a full eight points behind leaders Syria.

“But perhaps it is easier for Australia to think that way when they have won all four of their qualifiers so far when China have won just two and need every single point available over the next four games.”