Over to you, Frank Lowy. Photo: Daniel MunozAnge Postecoglou slams ANZ Stadium pitchNo more excuses for sub-standard pitches: players’ union
In Ange Postecoglou’s dreams the Socceroos would always perform on a lush, verdant carpet, a beautifully manicured grass surface where the ball runs true and skill, pace, technique and athleticism are rewarded.
But then the national team boss wakes up and is confronted with the rather more mundane reality – that his side has to cope with lumpy, bumpy, uneven pitches churned up by rugby and footy players, surfaces that handicap, rather than help, skilful players of the kind he is now developing.
What Postecoglou would love, and what Australia needs more than ever as it seeks to climb the international rankings, is its own version of Wembley Stadium.
A national soccer stadium owned, managed and run by the FFA, a ground that it doesn’t have to share with anyone else, a venue at which it can guarantee pitches and true surfaces where the Socceroos can perform at an optimum level.
If former FFA chairman Frank Lowy really wants to leave an enormous legacy for the sport, a memory which will live long after the octogenarian billionaire has passed on, he might consider funding such a stadium.
It could be called Westfield Arena or Lowy Park in his honour, a lasting legacy to his involvement in the sport and a permanent reminder of the role he played in restructuring the game’s administration following the closure of the NSL and the winding up of Soccer Australia and its replacement by FFA, of which he was the inaugural chairman.
Of course such a prospect would fill most fans, and some state governments, with horror, as it is odds on that any Australian “Wembley” would almost certainly be in Sydney.
The FFA is based there, four of the A-League’s current 10 teams are located in New South Wales and many of the game’s powerbrokers are in Sydney.
This idea won’t play well in Melbourne particularly, but if the game ever was to have its own national ground that’s most likely how it would pan out – unless some billionaire philanthropist from the Victorian capital would be prepared to stump up the cash and offer an alternative vision.
Of course there are many who feel that the sport is already too Sydney-centric, that its decisions and administration is swayed far too much by local concerns rather than the full national picture. That is hard to argue against where the A-League and aspects of the sport’s broader policy making is concerned.
But this is something different, something entirely separate.
Postecoglou knows that he might be perceived as a whinger for continually banging on about the state of the pitches his team has to play on, but he is right to draw attention to the difficulties they present and how embarrassing it can be to host top-level teams and present them with the soccer equivalent of ploughed fields.
While soccer remains the No.2 sport in most states and territories, while the rugby codes hold sway in NSW and Queensland and Aussie Rules dominates Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, it will ever be thus.
For rugby and footy, conditions underfoot are almost immaterial, save for loose patches of ground or the surface being too hard. A poor surface at a footy stadium might not make for the best spectacle, but it certainly doesn’t have the same impact on the game as it does on a soccer international.
As long as the Socceroos have to groundshare with the Kangaroos, the Wallabies, the AFL and the NRL it will be the same story.
A national stadium, if funding can be found, is one way to solve the problem. If it has to be in Sydney, then so be it.
There are myriad other challenges facing soccer administrators, so this isn’t the most pressing. But it is something that would not only boost the national team, it would make a huge statement about the game’s ambitions.
And Ange, if he is still in charge by then, would surely be able to sleep much easier rather than wake up from a nightmare vision where Tim Cahill misses the last gasp goal that would have taken the Socceroos to the World Cup in Russia because the ball bobbled on a loose divot dislodged by a thundering forward pack during a rugby match at Stadium Australia the night before.