The last two weeks have marked off a lot of important dates in the diaries of football fans, including the 10th anniversary of Johnny Warren’s passing – his vision of ‘I told you so’ becoming more of a reality every day. The 10th anniversary of the inception of the A-League led us to reflect on how far we had come, after years fearing that our great game might not exist in this country, and it showed us how remarkable it was that this thought was even possible.
The first win in the Asian Champions League by an Australian team, the Western Sydney Wanderers, also highlighted this growth. A fantastic achievement, and one which I was appreciative of, as well as lucky to have experienced in both legs, Parramatta and Riyadh.
It’s fair to say the last couple of weeks have been monumental for football in this country. Les Murray mentioned that the Wanderers success signalled Australia’s best ever result in football. There has also been talk of further investment at the Wanderers – the word of the day at the Civic reception last Monday was ‘Stadium’, and the collective will of Frank Lowy, Paul Lederer and Politicians alike to build, rang home their commitment to the fans of Western Sydney.
One word yet to be said amongst any stakeholder over this period of time has been ‘legacy’. What the Wanderers have achieved in such a short time frame is not only the talk of the town locally, but internationally as well. Whilst in Riyadh, journalists offered interviews from Germany, England and even from Morocco – all were interested in this fairy-tale. I am personally unable to think of another feat such as this that a sporting enterprise that has done similar – the closest being Greece in Euro 2004.
But as amazing as this coverage has been, we need to use the next 10 years as the platform to build on and to prove that this success is not a flash in the pan. That is where this word ‘legacy’ is so important to me. As a part of Johnny Warren’s vision, he mentioned that he wanted to see Australian football grow to a point where our nations’ best talent is no longer going overseas to play at the highest level. We need to ensure that our methods of how we can achieve this are sound.
The A-League, at ten years of age, is experiencing such a strong focus that mainstream media, such as Channel 7 and Channel 9, have given the FFA Cup Semi-Final between Bentleigh Greens and Perth Glory coverage. This is a sign of how fast the league has grown in such a short period of time, and the trick now will be sustaining this unprecedented attention.
At present, Central Coast Mariners are the first club to establish a Centre of Excellence, with a team in the National Youth League as well as the NSW National Premier League. This is a fantastic show of confidence from a team that suffers financially, and yet is able to recognise their future in their ability to create talent.
In the next ten years, I want to reflect on how home-grown the next generation of Wanderers will be, when competing consistently in the A-League and in Asia at the highest level for honours. Tony Popovic has been amazing for this club, but we must ensure his philosophies are continued and built upon if he chooses to leave – which must becoming more and more tempting.
Ideally, I want to highlight to Wanderers and other A-league fans, that there should at least be discussion on this matter – and how we can one day truly say “I told you so”.