Just over a week ago at the Perth Glory v Central Coast Mariners game a number of long standing Perth Glory fans stopped me and asked me what was wrong with football in Western Australia? Why they would think I had any answers was very flattering, but it is not as simple as right or wrong. With any sport where there is passion, one has to tread very carefully or you are likely to be shot down.
Regrettably from FIFA right down to little old Western Australia politics are entrenched in football. The Crawford report gave many hope, but the honeymoon is over and factions have formed once again and the game is slowly destroying itself from the inside out.
One thing that is required is strong leadership. Leaders who do not care about popularity, and who are prepared to make the best decisions for the long term good of the game rather than to ensure that their position of privilege is secure.
Having thought about this question for a week I do not believe that what is wrong lies entirely at the feet of certain often well meaning individuals.
As Nick Hornby said in his excellent book “Fever Pitch,” “for a fan, football almost never exists in the present.” What he meant when he wrote that was the foundations for fans and football clubs are built on the past; the disappointments as well as the triumphs.
The Football Hall of Fame here in Western Australia was the first of its kind in the country. Those who set it up did such a good job that the FFA modeled their hall of fame on Western Australia’s. These people realized the importance history plays in the heritage of sport, yet at the time their vision was not appreciated and in truth probably still isn’t.
The past, which is currently the present, forms the future; if that makes sense? Do those at grassroots level know the history of football in Western Australia? How many know that the first game played by Western Australia was against the England Cricket team?
Even if we look at the Perth Glory, and its short history, not enough is made of it. It is not celebrated, when it should be. The former players should be a constant reminder within NIB stadium to those who wear the shirt now. There have been great times and great players represent the club, yet there is only a smattering of acknowledgement of that past. Most of the acknowledgements are out of sight from the average fan.
In South America, and parts of Europe fans talk of heroes, legends, and history. People can say that the game is not old enough here in Australia, yet it is, maybe not in the professional era, but it is still rich in history and characters. The argument that Australia is more aligned to the USA than Europe does not wash, as you only have to look at how other sports in Australia celebrate their past and embrace it regularly.
The Football Hall of Fame Western Australia has been campaigning for a museum to help give the game a focal point where its rich history can be viewed. The Football Federation of Australia need to do likewise, as the Socceroos have a fascinating history of their own, before you even delve into the NSL or state federations.
I believe that the game needs to enjoy the present more, as this will soon become the past, and with the past you have a foundation on which to build. You have a history, you have tradition, and you also have mistakes, from which you can learn to ensure that the game not only has a future, but a bright and lasting one at that. Without that you are simply running to stand still, and that is what is wrong with the game at the moment, as well as a myriad of administrative issues.