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Are the Joeys’ slow starts evidence of a vacuum of opportunity for young Australian footballers?

With the Joeys currently involved in the FIFA U-17’s World Cup, some of Australia’s best young footballers are on show for the first time on the world stage. It is one of the rare opportunities for them to be so. Promising Australian talent is often well and truly distanced from public attention, with few tournaments available for them to show their wares.

All bar one of the U-17’s squad are contracted to professional clubs, with the majority honing their skills at youth level and biding their time before receiving a crack at top flight professional play.

Brisbane Roar’s Izaack Powell and Melbourne Victory’s Birkan Kirdar have both had a taste of the top level, yet for most it is something of a waiting game. That waiting builds frustration and a footballing anxiety to impress.

Such has appeared to be the case for the Joeys in both of their group matches thus far. Jumped early and stunned in the headlights by Ecuador, the young Australians were two goals behind after just nine minutes. There was something of a revival, plenty of possession and a late goal, yet it was a disappointing start to the tournament.

Things began in much the same way against Hungary yesterday. This time it took a little longer, 20 minutes in fact, for a two goal deficit to be established, but the Aussies were once again frantic and energetic without being poised and polished.

Prior to Hungary’s opener in the 14th minute, the Joeys had looked good, really good; seeking to make amends for their opening fixture. However, as soon as the Hungarians found their rhythm, the gaps began to appear and anxiety levels in the Joey’s squad appeared to increase.

What followed was the most stirring of second half comebacks from Australia. A penalty was followed by an equaliser in the 69th and 74th minutes and the Joeys should have won it late. Sadly, the winner did not come and it was to be just a lone point to keep hopes alive in the event.

It appeared clear that the Joey’s lack of experience and competitive opportunities affected their starts to both matches. Once they settled, particularly against Hungary, they looked just fine and the early swagger and confidence prior to going behind returned.

Just three members of the squad ply their trade overseas, with the remainder domestically based and involved in youth structures at A-League or NPL club level.

That essentially equates to players remaining in their home state/city and playing against opposition they know well and on a consistent basis.

A national competition similar to the FFA’s Y-League is required for them to improve, however the financial ramifications would be insurmountable for the clubs. The U-23 League can muster just eight competitive matches for its players; with clubs pooled into regions to restrain costs.

It is an unfortunate curse from which the wide brown land suffers, with airfares, accommodation and equipment expenses making extended national competitions at junior level nigh impossible.

Perhaps the answer lies in FFA supported and federation funded inter-state football, where representative teams from the eight states and territories compete for a national youth championship. School Sport Australia run such tournaments at U-16 and U-18 levels with great success.

Youth level championships would showcase the best young talent available and provide scouts with a centralised venue in which to witness that talent on show. It would expose players to all clubs across the Asian Confederation, something that is becoming increasingly important as the region grows at a rapid speed.

It is a concept that could be implemented across a range of age groups, potentially even as an extension of the U-23 Y-League concept.

It’s fundamental goal would be to have young football talent in Australia playing more often against the best opposition available; beyond club land. Forging further corporate connections, streaming inter-state matches and broadening Australia’s reach across Asia are also potential benefits.

As it stands, Australia’s youth squads are blessed with immense talent, yet appear poorly prepared for the rigours of international football. Increasing their domestic opportunities against elite opposition could go some way to improving performances on the world stage.

Of course, organising and funding such opportunities is another thing altogether.

Matildas draw record attendance in victory against Chile

Mere days after the huge announcement of equal pay between the Matildas and the Socceroos, the women have set another benchmark.

In their 2-1 win over Chile at the weekend, they drew the highest ever attendance for a women’s international match in Australian history.

20,029 fans flocked to the newly constructed Bankwest Stadium in Sydney to see Sam Kerr strut her stuff, bagging two goals as she lead her side to victory again.

After a disappointing few months following their early elimination from the Women’s World Cup earlier this year, the Matildas are well on their way to re-affirming their position as one of Australia’s strongest internationally represented teams.

The unceremonious sacking of Alen Stajcic also threw a major spanner in the works prior to the World Cup.

But Ante Milicic has done a fine job thus far. Success has seemed to follow the Matildas everywhere since that loss to Norway and this is not limited to on field performance.

The recent announcement of the equal pay agreement clearly is a landmark announcement and will hopefully spur the team on for the foreseeable future.

As we iterated in our article last week, let’s hope we can become the catalyst for a plethora of other countries to follow suit.

But today, the Matildas created another day to remember.

Being their first professional encounter following France, they had the fire in their bellies to do our country proud.

They certainly did that.

They’ve been an inspiration to so many people already, many of whom will hopefully be the next wave of aspiring superstars, both male and female.

With the equal pay agreement and more proof that people genuinely love watching them play at home, nothing seems to be able to stop them now.

And quite frankly, we couldn’t be more excited for what the future holds.

 

 

AusPlay survey reveals most active states and territories

Sport Australia’s latest AusPlay survey has shed some light on how people engage with sport and physical activity across the country, with the Australian Capital Territory posting some impressive results.

It was found that the ACT had the most active adults and during the course of 2018/19, 87.8 per cent of those from Canberra aged 15 or over participated in sport or physical activity at least once a week, which is more than the national rate of 82.3 per cent.

Of the Canberran adults that engaged in physical activity, more than two-thirds of those (69.1 per cent) participated at least three times a week.

Sport Australia CEO Kate Palmer spoke about AusPlay as the survey which is completed by 20,000 Australians each year.

“The latest AusPlay results show that almost 13 million Australians (62.9 per cent) aged 15 or over participate in sport or physical activity at least three times a week. Almost 60 per cent of Australian children are active at least once a week in organised activities outside school,” she said.

“We want to see that increase because we know the physical, mental and social benefits that being active provides.

“Sport Australia’s national Find Your 30 campaign encourages all Australians to get active for at least 30 minutes every day. Of course, the recommended activity levels for children are one hour a day, so that may be 30 minutes at school and 30 minutes at home.

“The Find Your 30 campaign is complemented by a suite of programs that encourages everyone to be active for life, from children to older Australians.

“The Australian Government’s national sport plan, Sport 2030, has set a long term goal for Australia to become the world’s most active and healthy nation. We have accomplished a lot so far, but there is far more to do if we are to continue to get Australia moving and achieve our vision.

“Sport Australia works hand in glove with sporting organisations and physical activity providers across the country to drive participation. No matter what state or territory you live in, there are endless options to be active. The key is finding something that you enjoy.”

On a broader scale, Victoria has the highest proportion of tennis players, New South Wales in swimming, Northern Territory in yoga, South Australia in netball, Western Australia in hockey, Tasmania in recreational walking, Queensland in rugby league and the ACT in football – showcasing the wide variety of sports people love.

AusPlay reveal that recreational walking continues to be the most popular activity across the nation, with almost nine million Australian adults taking part.

For more information about the survey results, you can find it here: https://www.sportaus.gov.au/media_centre/news/australias-most-active-states-and-territories-revealed

Equal pay for Matildas a win for the women’s game

In an announcement by Football federation Australia (FFA) and Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), a landmark Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) has been reached which will close the pay gap between the Caltex Socceroos and Westfield Matildas.

It’s a new CBA that will last for the next four years which sees the Australian men’s and women’s national teams receive the same pay from revenues generated and progress in the FIFA World Cup – a massive win for current and aspiring Matildas.

As part of the four-year CBA, they will receive a 24% share of an agreed aggregate of National Team Generated Revenues in 2019/20, rising by 1% each year.

Within the 24%, all players will contribute 5% of the National Team Generated Revenue towards Australian Youth National Teams, which guarantees some form of investment for future generations of the Socceroos and Matildas.

This new agreement addresses gender equity in the game and will be the way forward to reward all players equally.

The Matildas will now have a three-tiered centralised contract system which recognises the country’s finest women’s players – Tier 1 Matildas will earn the same amount as the top Socceroos.

The new CBA has also allocated more World Cup prize money as an incentive for progressing throughout the tournament.

Players are now entitled to 40% of prize money when qualifying for a FIFA World Cup, going up from 30%. Should they make it to the Knockout Stages, that share of prize money increases to 50%.

The player share of AFC Asian Cup prize money will increase from 30% to 33%. If they go all the way to the AFC Asian Cup Final, the prize money share increases to 40%.

The new CBA has been announced to cover the next World Cup cycle for both the Caltex Socceroos and the Westfield Matildas.

FFA Chairman Chris Nikou spoke about the landmark agreement:

“Football is the game for everyone, and this new CBA is another huge step toward ensuring that we live the values of equality, inclusivity and opportunity,” he said.

“For the first time, player remuneration will be directly tied to the revenues generated by our National Teams – this will create a sustainable financial model that incentivises players and FFA to collaborate and grow the commercial pie together.

“This is truly a unique agreement. Every national team, from the Socceroos and Matildas, down to the Youth National Teams as well as the Cerebral Palsy National Teams have been contemplated in this new CBA.

“With this CBA, the next generation of aspiring Australian kids can see a pathway that offers a sustainable career, a chance to be an Olympian, and the lure of playing at a FIFA World Cup – regardless of your gender. It means whether you are a male or female, the value football places on your jersey is no different. We are proud to break this new ground in Australian and world sport.”

For more information about the CBA, you can find it here: https://www.ffa.com.au/news/historic-cba-close-footballs-gender-pay-gap

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