Graham Arnold has delivered a withering verdict on the Prime Minister and other politicians who he believes are happy to wear Matildas’ and Socceroos’ scarves but still won’t fund Australian soccer.
The national men’s team coach chose his eve-of-match address before the prestige England international at Wembley to tell his international audience about what he believes is the severe under-funding of the sport back home, compared with AFL.
Saying Australian soccer still had nowhere to call its home, he also reckoned his old friend Ange Postecoglou, who’s flying high as Tottenham boss, had a point when suggesting in an interview earlier this week that soccer will never become mainstream back home.
Asked at Wembley on Thursday if he could ever foresee the day when soccer was at the heart of Australian sport, Arnold said on Thursday: “I’d love to see it – but I don’t know if I will.”
He even had a dig at Anthony Albanese. “We see the Prime Minister and the governments, they love coming out to watch the Matildas and the Socceroos with scarves on – but they must lose them when they go home.
“I’d love to see it (soccer at the heart of Australian sport) but I don’t know if I will. There was a great legend in Australian football many, many years ago called Johnny Warren, who said ‘I told you so’ (that soccer would become really big) and nothing’s really happened since then either.
“We have a sport in Australia, AFL, which is, as Ange said, the Indigenous sport which is the biggest in the country and, at the end of the day, there’s a lot of funds and a lot of money put into AFL, but it’s only played in one country.
“And we’re playing in a world sport and we don’t get anywhere near the resources or the help that sport does.
“Whether you can believe that or not, we don’t have a home of football. When the Socceroos come to Sydney to train, we have to train on a rugby league field where they remove the posts and put soccer posts up, that’s the truth.
“We are the highest participation sport at grassroots and don’t have a home of football at all. The last three, four days, where’s England been? St George’s Park (England’s national football centre), a place that inspires players, a place where it’s a home, a place where you build a culture – and we don’t have anything like that.
“After the World Cup, I said hopefully this will make something change and we’ll get government funding and help to inspire the kids’ lives and fulfil the kids’ dreams.
“We’ve had so many great footballers that have left the country because they’ve had to earn a living elsewhere to fulfil their dreams – Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Timmy Cahill, (Mark) Schwartzer, all these guys – and this generation is going to be the next.”
Of the prospect that the 2034 men’s World Cup will pass by Australia and go to Saudi Arabia, he added: “I’m not in the detail of 2034 but I will say that it would help the sport enormously to have a World Cup in Australia.
“And I think we showed that we’re great hosts. There’s a lot of work to do, but I do think with the generation of kids coming through, we can reinvigorate the sport.”