Socceroos coach Graham Arnold convened a Zoom video link-up with 37 of his expanded squad last week and told them “welcome to retirement”.
With the coronavirus forcing players and leagues across the world into hibernation, Arnold told his virtual Socceroos audience that the shutdown offered a sneak peek into the post-football world they will one day inhabit.
Taken aback, Arnold’s acolytes were all ears as the coach - whose team are unlikely to see FIFA World Cup qualifying action again before October - provided an alternative perspective on lockdown living.
“I got on the line and said ‘how are we all? I just want to introduce you boys to retirement’,” Arnold told The World Game.
There was a hush on the line and quizzical looks flashed across Arnold’s computer screen.
The coach pressed home the point, telling his listeners: “This is an introduction to what it’s like.
“All of you boys are on great journeys and have plenty of good football years ahead of you.
“But this coronavirus situation is a unique experience and it’s an introduction to what life is like once your playing days are over. This is what it feels like.
“Maybe some of you boys should think about what it is you want to do after retirement.
“Where do you want to go? Where do you want to be? Because once you stop playing this is how it is.
“There’s no more dance floor, no more stage, no more dressing room banter or group mateship. And there’s no more getting on the pitch and winning.”
Arnold’s mantra was all about players appreciating “their special lives” and milking every moment from the remainder of their careers.
“So use this as a positive. I expect when you come back, the gratitude you have for playing this great game as a professional will be even greater,” he told his congregation.
“You’ll understand how special your lives are.
“And when you next come in to camp and wear that great Socceroos badge, your energy on the field is going to be sky high. We’re going to, as a group, create miracles.”
With players scattered across continents and meeting only fleetingly during FIFA windows, Arnold is working overtime to foster a togetherness in his squad which will he believes will produce dividends on the pitch.
“When you bring players together you don’t want it to be 23 strangers turning up looking at each other and not knowing each other,” Arnold said.
“For me, successful teams are built on great mateship.
“When you have that you run the extra metre for each other and win that extra tackle. You put your body on the line for each other.
“It’s all about communication and making the training camps enjoyable and making the conversations enjoyable.
“The great thing was the other night I got off the line and I said ‘you blokes have some dressing room banter and some fun’ and they stayed on for about half an hour having a laugh.”
Arnold plans on more Zoom conference call catch-ups, possibly once a week whilst the coronavirus shutdown persists and probably beyond.
“Communication and caring are the most important things at this moment in time,” he said.
“Everybody has a different life. Everybody has a different way and we just have to help each other.”