Australia is Asia's leader when it comes to football conversation


One thing is noticeable on a visit to the The World Game homepage - it is a veritable hub of information and debate.

There are interviews and chats with FFA officials, players, coaches, ex-players and all manner of people connected to football.

It seems that it has always been that way but, for obvious reasons, there has been an increase of late.

It is a positive development and it is to be hoped that this all continues when things get back to normal.

It should because there is always plenty of debate in Australia. It is an example a lot of other countries would do well to follow.

Look to the big leagues of Europe and there is a divide between the coaches, the CEOs, the players and the rest.

Old journos talk wistfully of the time they could call a manager or a top player and just chat. Those days have long gone.

For the most part, if you want to talk to a top star these days, you go through reams of PR people and usually have to mention a sponsor. It’s not much fun.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is the United States. For a sports journalist, this is the promised land.

It is a place where the media has access to athletes to an extent that seems almost incomprehensible.

As soon as a game finishes, media is allowed in the locker room and that is just the tip of a very large iceberg. They are seen as a vital stakeholder in the game.

Australia is the closest that Asia has to that.

In Asia, it is easier to develop relationships and it is still possible to call people involved in the game for a chat.

It is still possible not to have to deal with the whole machinery and just be one person chatting to another about football.

This is not the case everywhere - though sometimes this can be about politics and other issues - but, in general, top football people are more receptive to not only giving out numbers and emails but answering impromptu calls and messages.

Australia is similar, in my experience at least. The football community is a lot more open, responsive and accessible than much of Europe.

It not only makes it a more pleasant environment in which to work but it also creates a healthy environment for debate, conversation and interaction.

And this is where Australia outshines Asia. Asia may be more intimate but it can be a little quiet at times.

Go to a website in South Korea, China or Iran and you will be lucky to see the head of the national federation chatting on video with journalists about where the game is going. You will be lucky to see them at all.

It is similar with players. There are always articles with comments from players and coaches but there often isn’t the same interaction. It is less common to see the stars discussing the game and what direction it should be heading in.

Yet in Australia there is FFA CEO James Johnson on The World Game discussing promotion and relegation. There is Graham Arnold, the coach of the national team, sharing his thoughts, A-League coaches and all kinds of players involved with the game.

It is great to see and instructive as well. There are bodies featuring former players springing up such as the 'Starting Eleven', a think-tank of sorts established by the FFA, who are starting debates and perhaps even setting agendas.

There may be plenty of issues in Australian football and things that need to be worked out, but in this regard at least, Australian football leads the way.

This constant debate as to where the game is and where it should go can only be healthy.