If ever a decision showed how out of touch those running the game of football are in Australia it was the one made to appoint Alessandro del Piero an Ambassador for the Asian Cup.
According to MIchael Brown the CEO of the Local Organising Committee for the Asia Cup ““He has galvanised interest in the A-League over the past two years, and we hope his association with the Asian Cup will do the same for what is the second oldest continental championship in the world.” This is debatable as when you travel overseas very few countries outside of Italy are that bothered about del Piero and in Asia you find they can name the ex EPL players who have played in the competition ahead of him.
The truth is we have plenty of exemplary Australians to appoint as ambassadors. WE could use this opportunity to educate people about the history of Australian football by having any of the 1974 Socceroos as ambassadors. After all Adrian Alston won a contract in England following his performances in Germany in 1974. Ray Baartz signed a two year deal with Manchester United when he was seventeen years old, this was when Sir Matt Busby was coach and United were at their peak.
In the modern era you have players like Mark Schwarzer who has played top flight football in Germany and England. Marco Bresciano who played in Italy and was much respected along with best mate Vince Grella. Mark Viduka along with Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill are Australia’s best known international players and all three of these could have done the job. The list goes on.
If you wanted to reward players who were pioneers Dave Mitchell was the first Australian to play in the Scottish Premier League, the Eredivisie, Bundesliga and Turkish league, while John Aloisi was the first to play all three top European leagues, La Liga, Serie A and the English Premier League. It is sad that all of these players have not been found roles and Australia opts to use a foreigner.
It is sad that those making these decisions do not see these roles as opportunities to promote Australians, and Australian football history not only to Australia and Asia but also to the world. One cannot help thinking this was a missed opportunity.