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Australian football can’t grow without Australian support

The Socceroos are just one win away from gaining qualification to this year’s World Cup in Qatar.

After failing to secure automatic qualification in the group stage, the Aussies were forced into the do-or-die deciders against the United Arab Emirates and Peru.

The team overcame the UAE on Wednesday, with a brilliant late goal from Ajdin Hrustic sealing the victory 2-1 and moving them within inches of their fifth consecutive World Cup.

Casual Australian football fans are coming out and jumping on the bandwagon as a result, keen to relish the Australian patriotism, but one major question that continues to come up is who is this team?

An article in The Australian this week basically dismissed the Socceroos as a once-good side that is now full of no-name players.

If you don’t know them, you haven’t been paying attention, and it brings up a glaring issue with the nation’s domestic football talents.

Australia is full of up-and-coming players, young talent and certified stars. This was on full display during last year’s Olympics in Tokyo, where the Olyroos managed to down Argentina 2-0.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Melbourne City’s Marco Tilio and Western United’s Lachie Wales netted the goals, and while they may have been the only ones scored in the Olympics campaign, it cemented the young players as ones to be reckoned with.

The majority of the team came from the A-League Men.

The best of that league, the A-League All Stars, took on arguably one of the greatest teams in the world in Barcelona late last month.

Over 70,000 fans came out in Sydney to watch the friendly, where the A-League Men players surprisingly held their own for a 3-2 loss.

In comparison, the A-League Men grand final, which was held just days after, attracted just 22,495 fans.

These were the two best teams in Australian domestic football, close Victorian rivals in a Melbourne derby, battling for the Championship, managing less than a third of what turned out for a friendly.

We know there are so many football fans in Australia, including those who get up at ungodly hours to watch their favourite international teams, and proudly wear their jerseys every chance they get.

They come out in force for their country when they take to the international stage, packing stadiums on weekdays for qualifiers and packing into sports bars for away games.

But when it comes to supporting our home-grown stars, in a league that is a breeding ground for super talent, we can only manage a measly turnout.

Western United

(Photo by Dave Hewison/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The 2021-22 A League Men season averaged attendances of 5404. The schedule was impacted heavily by the pandemic and flooding, with many games rescheduled for unfortunate weekday time slots.

But if 70,174 people can turn out on a weekday for a friendly, surely more than 5000 can do it for our national football competition?

A frequent complaint of the A-League Men is that it’s just not as good compared to international competitions.

That may be true, but it will never get better without local support.

Just this week two players from the Central Coast secured multi-year deals with clubs in the Scottish Premier League: Kye Rowles with Heart of Midlothian and Lewis Miller with Hibernian.

They join a host of home-grown talent making their name overseas. Australian football can’t grow and get better without Australian support.

Tuesday’s clash with Peru will almost certainly bring out the casual Australian football fans, and plenty more jumping on the bandwagon.

But those finding their pride for Australia’s national team for the World Cup need to remember our home-grown talent.

Because without supporting football at home, at the grass-roots, NPL and A-Leagues level – it can’t grow.

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