Meet the ex-Socceroo fighting for players’ rights

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He was part of the Golden Generation, starred in the NSL and A-League, and represented his country internationally on 26 occasions. But now Simon Colosimo has swapped the football pitch for the boardroom, working in Europe as a senior executive for the world players union FIFPro.

Just over a year ago Colosimo was appointed deputy general secretary of FIFPro. Based in the Netherlands, the organisation is made up of 63 national players associations and represents more than 60,000 male and female professional footballers around the globe

“It’s been really cool, it’s been excellent really,” he told The World Game.

“To be front and centre of the football world, in the heart of it, is something that’s very different to Australia. But at the same time, there are some great things and learnings from Australia that I’ve been able to bring here. It’s been great.”

Colosimo is one of two deputies, along with Frenchman Stephane Burchkalter, that support general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann. The Australian has been with FIFPro for three years, working his way up from advisory and board member roles in Asia, Oceania and in member services.

FIFPro supports players in a number of ways but creating a global match calendar, that all parties can agree to, has been a particular focus for the organisation recently.

“The big thing, and Covid or no Covid, is the match calendar,” Colosimo said.

“For various reasons, in the men’s game there is an overload and we’re trying to find a balance of competitions. I don’t see any of the stakeholders wanting to remove competitions.

“So it’s about finding a balance to ensure that the clubs have the best players on the field at all times, the supporters get to watch the best players and the players can cope with an increase in workload, because of the games. That’s the big thing.

“And then if you look at the women’s game, there really isn’t much alignment in it. So just trying to find consistency in building a career to be a full-time professional player.

“As we’ve seen from Australia a lot of our Matildas who have played over 100 games for the Matildas are playing for two different clubs a year because the competitions probably don’t carry over enough and there isn’t enough consistency in their calendar. 

Colosimo hails from Melbourne, came through the AIS in the 1990s and debuted in the NSL with Carlton in 1997. He was involved with Professional Footballers Australia throughout his playing career, eventually rising to president and becoming an executive committee member.

“I spent the best part of my playing career as president of the PFA,” the 42-year-old said. 

“Then I took on a role there and I really enjoyed the international aspect of it. I guess it’s similar to a playing career, you start in Australia and you want to get yourself in the big, bad world of football. 

“You want to play in the top leagues and so on, and it’s probably a similar trajectory or pathway [to FIFPro]. I did some stuff in Asia with the division in Asia, and I really enjoyed that, and it evolved like that.”

“It’s a funny story [how I first got involved with the PFA]. I played for Carlton many, many years ago. And then Carlton went through financial difficulties that most clubs in the NSL went through. 

“Just sitting in a room and seeing that the club was going under, I was only young and living at home. Things were OK, so if I didn’t get a salary it was OK as mum was feeding me, I had a roof over my head and so on.

“But there were players in that team that it was their job, it was their job to play football, which meant that them providing for their families it was no longer a hobby. And that sort of resonated with me that we can’t have this.

“If we want a professional game, if we want to be full-time, if we want to compete in the World Cup and all of this, we want to grow the game in the country, then we need to be able to ensure that there are jobs and they’re treated as workers, the players. And it was that which really sort of kicked it off.

“Funny enough those meetings that we had – Brendan Schwab was around, John Didulica was around as a young lawyer – so its evolved and gone from there. But that was my first taste of it, albeit from a negative side, but I think it gave me that first little bit of passion.”

Colosimo’s time on the pitch lasted nearly two decades and including winning an NSL championship with Perth Glory in 2003, a Malaysian Super League title in 2004 and an A-League double with Sydney FC in 2010. He also won two Joe Marston medals and had spells in England with Manchester City, in Belgium with Antwerp, in Turkey with Sivasspor and in India with Dempo.

A midfielder or centre back, he also amassed 26 international caps for the Socceroos between 1998 and 2010, and represented Australia at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

But he admits he has reflected back little on his playing days, which included an infamous serious injury thanks to the studs of Andy Cole against Manchester United in 1999, until recently.

“I’m proud of what I achieved, I think that’s probably the first point,” Colosimo said. 

“I look back at now, and it’s only now, that I reflect on my career more. I was actually talking with Andrew Orsatti recently and he had some clippings from around the time when I was injured against Manchester United.

“And my son said I’ve seen the still images but I haven’t seen the footage, still today. And I said neither have I, maybe we’ll try and pull it up and have a look at it. I’m proud I was able to wear green and gold, I’m proud of the couple of championships I won at club level in Australia.”

Colosimo’s career spanned both the NSL and A-League eras, with stints with the Glory, Sky Blues and Melbourne Heart, now known as Melbourne City. The former Socceroo believes the A-League competition still has big potential, despite recent struggles, and feels Australian football has a lot it can be positive about.

“I’m sitting on this side of the world so I’m not living it as I did at home,” he said.

“And again I look and there’s so much potential and opportunity there in the A-League. And now that the league has separated from the federation, that’s going to be an interesting period, and not for one reason or other, it’s just going to be different.

“I think change is good and it’s probably not fair on the league or anyone in Australia to expect that tomorrow all of a sudden everything is much better or much worse. So we’re in that period again where we’re just going to have to make sure we try what we need to so that it’s specific for Australian football, and for what we have there.

“Are we ever going to be an English Premier League? I don’t think we are, it’s just the reality of it. But how we find our place domestically and how that filters internationally…. We’ve done some things really, really well.

"We’ve qualified for the last four World Cups, we have the Matildas who are consistently in the top ten in the world. Irrespective if the World Cup was in Australia and New Zealand or not, I think the Matildas would have come in as one of the challengers for the World Cup.

“They’re things the game needs to be proud of.  And I don’t think we do that enough, I don’t think we reflect on that enough, I don’t think Australian football sits back and looks at the positives enough.

“Even through the NSL we had a host of fantastic footballers, as we do now, in a semi-professional environment, now we’re going into professional and it’s not going to be easy.

“A lot of the things that Australia facing, and now that I see it on a global stage, is no different to some of the things that some well-established nations are facing in the world of football.”

Source SBS The World Game