There is so much happening in the world on all fronts. The environment, in politics, in the economy and of course in football. Apart from the big ol US of A nowhere that I know of do we have so many unique obstacles facing us when it comes to the world game. It is a myriad of conundrums floating around a hypothetical space known as Football. Few if any truly understand what is happening! Today I’m going to try to elaborate a little more on my findings. In a book by Mathew Syed called Rebel ideas, he explains how a crossing of cultures leads to innovation and creativity. He says that when you are isolated in your little area of expertise you create a sort of echo chamber where you begin to think that your way is the right way the only way. In one case he describes how Bernard Sadow an executive of a luggage company proposed a novel idea to place wheels on luggage. When he presented the idea to the board of directors they laughed it off and said that it would never work! At that time carrying luggage was considered manly and it took some time to convince people of the idea. It’s a good thing he decided to pursue the idea further and today you will find it hard to find luggage without wheels. So how is it that so many people with many years in that industry were not able to see the bigger picture?
Perhaps part of the problem is isolation, whilst we are a mixed bunch here in Australia, we are still very much alone on this island. We are not surrounded by easy access to other footballing nations. Our kids don’t regularly play tournaments against teams from other countries like they do in Europe. Our parent’s perception of youth development is only what they see in our backyard week in week out. That reflects on our culture which is very much a sports culture based on competition. Most parents still don’t understand why a coach instructs a player to play the ball back to the keeper, to them this is competitive suicide. This is because we as a nation are outcome-driven instead of process-driven when it comes to youth football.
As for the game itself, we are in direct competition with four other major codes. We have Rugby, AFL, Cricket, Basketball and Union. We are also good at other less popular sports such as tennis, cycling, athletics and netball to name a few. With a small population now getting close to 25 million. It is very difficult to sustain continued growth and investment when there is only so much corporate $$ to go around. We are not a football country we are a sports country and therefore we will struggle to attract the investment needed to fast track our progress. The main thing we have going for us is that we are the number one participation sport.
Then there are the media, this is the medium that can most affect rapid change. They are the ideologists that feed our senses. Unfortunately for Football culturally we are still predominantly Aussie mate! The majority of our population are those with anglo backgrounds that are the ancestors of the first to begin the resettlement of English convicts here. We now also have 3rd and 4th generations of kids from diverse cultures that have melted into the pot. Those that arrived early eventually shaped our unique nation and in turn our love for sports. I think the weather helped and hence our media is heavily focused on Aussie sports. I can’t see this changing unless the FFA starts to get it right at all levels!
Since the death of the NSL, the NPL clubs run by hard-working volunteers have been left in the wilderness to fend for themselves. Their ability to attract investment has largely disappeared as there is no hope of ever getting into the A league so every representative level club has now become a private academy. The majority of the fees go towards servicing the first grade teams. Youth development is fragmented, there is no unified model within the clubs so the clubs pay players as low as NPL 3 ridiculous amounts of money to try to attract the best players for promotion. Everyone wants to be in NPL1 but that’s as high as you go, no media, no promotion, no big sponsorships, no chance of private investors injecting the much-needed funds that clubs need to become more professional. The worst part is that the tribalism of clubs v clubs has also gone because of there’s no way to get to the top and in a country like this that is competition mad what’s the point of supporting a club that can never have any chance of growing and competing at the highest level.
All of this leads to parents and fans who are disconnected the ones who want the best for their kids become desperate. A few will offer clubs and individuals bribes. If these parents just took two minutes to understand that the odds of your child becoming a pro in this country is 0.02% perhaps they would take those bribes and invest it into something like extra school tuition. If you want your kids to be successful teach them to value hard work and sacrifice. If you have the means create opportunities for them to better themselves, don’t shield them from adversity, this is by far the worst thing you can do. Eventually, they will become adults who have been shielded from problems and they won’t cope, this is why we have an explosion of mental illness in society. Let your kids suffer the consequences of disappointment, nurture them through it by asking the right questions and by focusing inwards, stop making excuses for your kids and start giving them their power back by taking full responsibility for what happens, this is how they bounce back.
Football is art when you invest in your children’s future ask yourself what will my child get out of this experience, what will his environment do for his/her self esteem, what life lessons will be learned? What subconscious programs will they down load. Will they improve their skills so they continue to play a game they love well into old age. In the world, we live in today sport is no longer a social activity it is an essential element to human growth and health, not just physical but mental health but only if you guide them the right way.