TICKET TO RUSSIA: The Australia players celebrate winning the 2018 FIFA World Cup Intercontinental play-off football match between Australia and Honduras at Stadium Australia in Sydney on Wednesday night.
TICKET TO RUSSIA: The Australia players celebrate winning the 2018 FIFA World Cup Intercontinental play-off football match between Australia and Honduras at Stadium Australia in Sydney on Wednesday night. DAVID MOIR

Opinion: Time to celebrate, but let's keep ball moving

AUSTRALIA is through to the the FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russia.

It started on June 16, 2015, and ended on November 15, 2017.

884 days - The longest qualification journey Australia has ever had to endure, besides the 32 years we failed to qualify between 1974 and 2006.

It was also the most amount of games and distances travelled for any team to qualify in FIFA history.

Unlike other sports, qualification to the football World Cup isn't as simple as spelling your name correctly. There are more member nations in FIFA (208) than there are in the United Nations (193).

The Olympics comes close to matching that number, but falls short at 205 member nations.

Those 208 FIFA nations compete to be among the 32 to qualify for the tournament, which occurs every four years.

Australia captain Mile Jedinak scored the only hat-trick of his lengthy career so far.

The 33-year-old Sydney-born midfielder showed the embodiment of Australian spirit, playing 180 minutes of football in a tough, athletic display typified with a no-fuss style.

The Aston Villa enforcer proved his ability which has given him rise to the top of the game in Europe, which included being captain of English side Crystal Palace.

Qualification alone comes with a cheque, approximately $12 million, not including television rights, sponsorships, renewed interest in the game and a surge in numbers of players picking up the game.

Now there is another six months to wait until the Socceroos touch down in Moscow for the June tournament.

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The pool of Australian players who ply their trade around the globe will now pick up their form and hope to catch the eye of the Australian coach, whether that is Ange Postecoglou or not.

In the shadow of qualification, the Australian tactician is rethinking his role with the Socceroos, citing friction with Football Federation Australia.

That friction will come to a head in the next few months, as FIFA has demanded the Australian authority to get its house in order, specifically when it comes to politics between A-League clubs and state federations.

I believe, from that reshuffle will come a more stable and forward-thinking football federations and A-League competition and that will trickle down to the local level.

The game in Australia recently become the most participated sport across all demographics, including women's sport after it recently overtook netball.

According to the most recent survey from the Australian Sports Commission, 1,152,442 people play the round-ball game, almost half-a-million more than AFL.

Rugby league and rugby union failed to make the top 10, with basketball, cricket, and touch football placed higher.

The women's national side, the Matildas, are arguably one of the best teams in the world and are considered the most successful national sporting team in the country at present.

The steps football has taken add up nationally, but locally, there's still work to do.

Gympie Football have now rebranded its top men's team into Gympie United Football Club, which will play in the Sunshine Coast Premier League, taking the place of the Gympie Diggers.

One separate team to represent and "unite” all of Gympie's football teams.

A women's team in the Sunshine Coast Premier League is not currently planned, but should not be far off.

Similarly, we need to be producing top quality coaches to lift the ability of the players we have. This needs to be a priority.

LOCAL LAD: Gympie's Jimmy Downey is one footballer whose roots were in Gympie. Pictured here during his days for Perth Glory in the A-League (2007-2010).
LOCAL LAD: Gympie's Jimmy Downey is one footballer whose roots were in Gympie. Pictured here during his days for Perth Glory in the A-League (2007-2010).

Gympie has already had one player in the A-League, with Jimmy Downey, who most recently turned out for Wellington Pheonix.

I can't wait to see the next Gympie player make their name in football. I am convinced we can with the correct planning and foresight. The thing which has plagued Australian football for a long time is the disjointed nature of clubs feeding players upwards.

Every football club, and region, should aim to feed its best players to a higher level. That filtering feeds players higher up the pyramid and eventually, into the national team.

Football has never had a problem with participation, it has a problem with planning, politics and management.

If football can get its house in order there is no reason why we should not aim to win the World Cup in the future.

But then again, nations such as Italy, The Netherlands, Chile, and the USA all failed to qualify, such is the cut-throat nature of world football for those who rest on their laurels.

Gympie Times


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