Graham Arnold believes the introduction of a national second division would be “the second-biggest moment” of his life as a member of the Australian football community.
The Socceroos boss has long been an advocate of opportunity for the game’s youth, having widened the talent pool considerably since being appointed both Socceroos and Olyroos coach in 2018.
However, with Australian football in the midst of yet another shift, partly due to the pandemic, Arnold prioritised a second tier as the perfect cure.
“You can use the coronavirus as an excuse or you can use it as an opportunity for change,” Arnold said during Wednesday’s episode of The World Game live.
“I have great respect for the NPL and state federations. I do. (But) if someone came up to me today and said, ‘Arnie, there’s going to be a second division set up next week’, it would probably be the second-biggest moment in my life and in my football here, after being the Socceroos coach – getting the job on merit. Not in 2007, when I got it given to me.
“It’s all about the kids, the families; giving these kids the opportunity to fulfil their dreams.
“Kids born in 1996, when the NYL (National Youth League) in 2015 went to eight games, do you know how many kids born in 1996 are playing in the A-League today? Four.
“Unless we all come together and reunite this game, those kids born in 2001, 2002 and 2003 – I would say to the parents, get out and ask questions to all the member federations.
“Are our kids going to get through? Are our kids going to fulfil their dreams? The ‘96s has shown – and the '97s, in a way – that they need longer time in the game and they need more opportunities to play and that could mean A-League clubs in NPL1 for this moment in time.
“We need change now, we don’t have one year to waste, we don’t have two years to waste.
“We have Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City in NPL3 in Victoria. We have kids training in a professional environment at the Newcastle Jets who are playing NPL4 in New South Wales.
“I understand there has been issues here with state federations, the NPL and the A-League clubs.
“It’s like there’s a 15-year divorce that’s gone on and the husband and the wife are still fighting about who gets the money for the house and who gets custody of the kids.
“And while that fighting has been going on, the kids are the ones who have been punished because they haven’t been focused on.
"We need to give these kids an opportunity to become Socceroos.”