Opinion

How about an annual Tasman tussle to help disaster victims?

 

Australia and New Zealand should make a serious effort to strengthen their ANZAC alliance by holding an annual clash to serve as a fund-raiser for victims of natural disasters.

The Socceroos have not met their All Whites cousins since 2011 when Australia prevailed 3-0 in Adelaide.

Frankly, it is time to revive the ANZAC spirit by staging an international match every year or on a biennial basis if finding the time for it in such a busy international calendar proves problematic.

A men's and women's double header, for example, would tickle the ivories of many fans on either side of the ditch.

And the proceeds from such a meeting could be deposited into a 'disaster fund' to be used whenever they are needed.

The funds could go towards victims of bushfires in Australia, which are becoming more severe, and earthquakes in New Zealand, which has between 150 to 200 tremors a year.

This is not a novel idea and several attempts have been made in the last 20 years or so to engage the Tasman rivals in a regular confrontation that would rekindle the sporting rivalry between the two and offer both sets of players tough preparation for their World Cup and regional aspirations.

But the idea never really got off the ground for one reason or another.

One suspects that Football Federation Australia, since trading Oceania for Asia in 2006, feels that the Socceroos now have bigger fish to fry than the All Whites.

Hence its reluctance to engage its Kiwi rivals in a contest that would generate limited interest on this side of the Tasman.

Well, I do not believe so. Properly marketed, an Australia versus New Zealand 'derby' would be a hit with many fans and prove to be more appealing than a match with some of Asia's lesser teams, for example.

The Kiwis are doing well at the moment and no doubt would give the Socceroos a good run for their money.

The scenario has changed today, anyway.

The natural disasters that can cause havoc in parts of both countries should provide football's leaders with a strong enough reason to consider such Tasman contests with foresight and a stronger goodwill.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is a big fan of the concept.

"This is a great idea and we should consider playing New Zealand more often as they are in our A-league," Arnold said.

"There is a great rivalry in sport between both countries but at the same time we care deeply about each other and we need to help each other when tragedies occur.

"Sport is always a great way of doing that and in football we had a great rivalry between us until we moved into Asia but to rekindle that rivalry yearly to raise funds would be very welcome."

The two countries have a long history of international matches dating back from 1922 when New Zealand beat Australia 3-1 at Carisbrook in Dunedin.

They have played a total of 64 matches ranging from mere friendlies to FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

FOOTNOTE: Sky Stadium management has offered to stage an international match between New Zealand and Australia for free.

Shane Harmon, chief executive of the renamed Westpac Stadium in Wellington, said all proceeds from the match would go to disaster victims.

"We have informed New Zealand Football and Football Federation Australia of our offer and if the match takes place at Sky Stadium I can guarantee a full house," Harmon said.

Harmon said the "great idea" had early support from media and sponsors.