DOHA: Graham Arnold again reiterated that everything he is working towards is for the future of the sport in Australia, rather than personal glory, as he called for more investment into football to help them keep pace with other Asian nations.
Speaking ahead of the Socceroos’ crunch match against Denmark, Arnold was asked about the overall health of the game back home.
His answer outlined clear concerns with the development system, with the supply of junior talent thinning out due to a system that has fallen behind many other football nations.
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“It’s not about me, its about the game in Australia,” Arnold told reporters.
“If you’re not Australian and you don’t know, football in Australia is probably the fourth or fifth main sport after AFL, rugby league, rugby union, cricket … and then there’s football.
“They call it soccer.”
Arnold has been at the helm for four-and-a-half years, through arduous qualification and Olympic campaigns, and is now seeing some of that young core stepping up at the highest level.
He said he took the dual role as Olyroos coach after identifying that the preparation the team had for London 2020 was inadequate.
In all, 10 players in this World Cup squad also featured at the Olympics.
“There’s more than five (in this squad) that were with us at the Olympics, but it was a quick fix and it’s not right,” he said.
“When I say that, whatever happens with this World Cup I think the organisation needs a review of what’s going on in junior development. “
Arnold opined that the age of the key players at Russia 2018 was a concern, with several stars clearly on their way out – but that there were no ready-made replacements coming through.
“I watched them play, I could see straight away that Cahill, Jedinak, Milligan, Kruse, an ageing squad was there,” he said.
“I’d already taken the job, I needed to find players. And when I started looking, there was nothing coming through.”
Arnold said there was still “massive concerns” for the future, and that the Socceroos should be the result of good planning at lower levels, not where change should or could start.
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“The Socceroos are just the icing on the cake – and whatever that icing, whether it tastes good or bad, the most important thing is the ingredients. The ingredients is junior development, junior national teams,” he said.
“If that’s not right, the icing will not taste very good.
He sarcastically replied that his first order of business if in charge of fixing everything would be to hire 150 people.
“The game is growing and growing. Asia is growing so quickly. People can sit back at home and their opinion is maybe Saudi is not that good or Japan.
“Look at what they’ve done. Beaten Argentina. Beaten Germany. Asia is throwing a lot of money into football and we need to catch-up.”
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