It has been almost 20 years since Mark Schwarzer and the Socceroos made history by qualifying for the FIFA World Cup for just the second time in history, but not much has changed when it comes to funding for the sport.
The Socceroos were the toast of the nation on that night in 2005 when Schwarzer was the hero in the 4-2 penalty shootout victory against Uruguay that propelled Australia into its first World Cup since 1974.
That Australian team would go on to defy history even by escaping the group stage and only losing to powerhouse Italy in a controversial finish in Germany.
Fast-forward to 2022 and the Socceroos were again the pride of the country, with thousands flocking to city squares to cheer on the national side as it rewrote the history books in Qatar.
But once all of the celebrations died down, the Socceroos were left unfunded and homeless by the federal government on both occasions.
Arnold and the Socceroos celebrate victory over Denmark that secured their passage into the knockout stages of the World Cup
Thousands of Socceroos fans flooded into city centres around the country to cheer the team on in Qatar – but getting financial support from the government was a very different story
Despite millions being pumped into rival football codes in Australia, the Socceroos still need to pay $1500 a session to use run-down Leichardt Oval for training and they have no recovery centre.
Coach Graham Arnold has been on the warpath trying to get the much-needed funding for a dedicated home for the national side, but Schwarzer believes there are external forces at play.
‘Unfortunately there are too many people in Australia that desperately don’t want football to succeed, they are afraid of our beautiful game,’ he posted on Twitter, including an interview Arnold gave on Sunday.
In that interview on ABC’s Offsiders the national coach said he supported other football codes like the NRL and AFL getting government money, but wanted to see the Socceroos get their fair share.
‘I’m really happy for the AFL to get what they get and the rugby league and the NRL in NSW to get what they get,’ he said.
‘But we get nothing. At the end of the day we don’t get any high-performance money off the government, we don’t have a home for the Socceroos.’
The Socceroos are pictured at a training session at run-down Leichhardt Oval in 2022 ahead of a vital World Cup qualifying match. Other national teams have state-of-the-art set-ups
(Left to right) Schwarzer, John Aloisi and Tim Cahill celebrate qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, just the second time Australia had made the finals
Arnold spoke of the embarrassing conditions that awaited top talent returning home to play for their country, including hauling backs of ice back to their hotel rooms just to recover.
‘I’m bringing players back from Europe that are top class players and they’ve got the best training facilities in Europe,’ he said.
‘They come back, we stay in a hotel obviously, we have no recovery centre, the boys have to get ice to put in their own bathtub in their rooms to recover from the flight and get ready for the games.
‘So it’s something that I believe that the only way forward for Australian football is we need a home of football that we can build the pathways for the kids.
‘We’re just looking at the elite level of the Socceroos and the Matildas but the pathway is the most important thing and unless we can fix the ingredients in the cake and get that right, well then the game will suffer.’
Fans were quick to back Schwarzer and Arnold and call for greater funding for football in Australia.
‘For a sporting nation, that’s not particularly impressive. Look at smaller countries like Croatia or Belgium,’ one posted.
‘Most popular grassroots participation sport in the country now which is amazing and should be celebrated/funded accordingly,’ posted another.
‘Such fantastic potential for football in Australia, a perfect platform for the sport,’ added another.