“I don’t know what’s better, getting laid or getting paid
I just know when I’m getting one, the other’s getting away”
– West, K. (This Way, 2004):
Australian football faces a Kanye West Paradox.
West once contended that he could have either sexual success with women or financial success – but never both at the same time. While both outcomes were desirable, they were deemed inherently mutually exclusive.
While not (ostensibly) chasing the same goals as West, Australian football faces a similar conundrum: it can’t have a successful domestic league at the same time as a successful Socceroos side.
Sure, it wants both and is trying its hardest, but like Kanye said, “when I’m getting one, the other’s getting away”.
Five years ago, Football Australia was getting some Socceroos. They were ranked 21st in the world and had recently experienced a watershed World Cup in Germany. In contrast, the A League was getting away: the fledgling competition had serious teething problems.
Flash-forward to the current day, and while the A League is going gangbusters, the Socceroos are tanking like the Melbourne Demons.
Just consider what the Socceroos have gone through over the past two years. They have:
- Scratched their way to World Cup qualification with a nervy 1-0 home win over Iraq;
- Got dicked 6-0 by France and Brazil in consecutive friendly matches;
- Sacked coach Holger Osieck;
- In spite of some energetic performances and heroics from Tim Cahill, lost all three games and conceded nine goals at the 2014 World Cup.
- Got bounced 1-0 by Qatar last month.
The Socceroos play Japan next week, and like over-protective parents whose 18-year-old child has just left home for a night out in Kings Cross, I am genuinely worried about their wellbeing.
Things are bad for the Socceroos. They are now ranked 94th in the world, sandwiched in between the recently-failed states of Haiti and Rwanda. But it could get worse.
After the Japan friendly, the next major challenge will be the Asian Cup in January 2015. As the first major football tournament to be held on Australian soil (outside of the Olympics, but that doesn’t count because of those odd rules about players having to be under-23), this is a showcase moment for Australian football.
I am not a fan of judging a code on a single performance (except in the case of rugby union, in which I will continue to declare dead every time the Wallabies lose). Having said that, anything less than a semi-final appearance for the Socceroos, which on current form is unlikely, will be a disaster for the tournament and more generally speaking, the code – A League success, or not.
Nobody outside of Qatar and South Korea wants to see those two face off in the Grand Final of the Asian Cup, but it could happen.
And if the Socceroos get kicked out in the Group Stage, their stocks will sink even lower.
If they sack Ange, who do they turn to next? Another local coach, or try to pick up another Dutch guy? After blooding young local talent, do they turn back to the tried and tested old guard?
Failure at the Asian Cup will bring a lot of hard questions for Football Australia, and I am worried about what the answers may be.
With the A League going from strength to strength, and if Kanye’s prophetic paradox continues to be correct, the Socceroos could be in the wilderness for a while.
By Ben Shine