A-LEAGUE: SLEEPING GIANTS HAVE AWOKEN

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By Jason Sulligoi  | Photo via

 

 

Who said football was finished for the year? For those of the round ball persuasion, the football season is barely one month old.

 

In years gone by when the AFL season was over, you’d be greeted with the prospect of a long and grinding summer of sports that may or may not tickle your fancy. There’s motor car racing (if you’re into cars, if not steer clear), horse racing (great if you like it, if not neigh neigh!), then cricket (including seagull watching) and then some tennis, where the females play like they’re double parked and grunt like they’re auditioning for a porno.

 

Thank goodness for the A-League. Now the extra time us blokes have to potter around the man-cave during the warmer months can include some quality world football.

 

You would have just arrived from another constellation to not know who David Villa is. He was the guest player for Melbourne City (formerly Melbourne Heart) and the Spanish giant attracted a circus of media attention for himself, Melbourne’s fledgling soccer club and the code as a whole.

 

When I was a boy, we’d have footy in winter, cricket in summer and for the beanpoles there was basketball.”

 

When City clashed with established rivals Melbourne Victory in October, Etihad Stadium was packed to the rafters. Victory won easily, led by Besart Berisha. It won’t be long, maybe a few years down the track before the two Melbourne rivals will pack out the MCG. Victory can already pack out Etihad on its own. This has the AFL worried.

 

Make no mistake, at grass roots level there is an arms race going on to poach the champions of tomorrow. When I was a boy, we’d have footy in winter, cricket in summer and for the beanpoles there was basketball. Now there is a smorgasbord on offer, with soccer as a really tasty option.

 

If soccer down under can continue to attract massive overseas talent still in their prime, as opposed to international stars squeezing an extra few zeros on their pay cheques before going out to pasture, along with establishing a way to grow genuine home-grown talent, then the sky is the limit for the biggest game in the world.

 

The fact they play soccer (a winter sport) here in the warmer months is to coincide with the football calendar worldwide. This gives AFL, rugby and soccer space to operate without trying to kill each other during winter, even though it must be physically taxing on the soccer players in summer.

 

There are just a few more boxes world football down under needs to tick. They need to ensure that the live games remain family friendly (as they currently are) and that any threat of hooliganism is stamped out immediately. The last thing we want to see is a legion of shirtless aggressive young men warring with another legion of similar types. I’m not saying it will happen, it certainly doesn’t now, but hooliganism has popped up occasionally overseas and thus should be monitored just in case.

 

A-League also needs some prime time love from free to air TV. That would be the clincher. Ratings would be juicy and I’m surprised a bidding war hasn’t already begun. Give it time. They’ll come knocking. The sleeping giant of sport in Australia has awoken.

 

 

Jason Sulligoi is an experienced sports writer and professional drum teacher.  Contact: sports@thenorthsider.com.au

 

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