'Wog-Ball' becomes Australian Soccer

Milan K

Word Count: 500 

After spending the best part of a century living off the crumbs left by Rugby League and AFL, Australian soccer is finally threatening to unseed them as Australia’s favourite sport. Despite the national league (NSL) constantly being drained of its premier young talent, the quality of play has been rising at a dramatic rate for the past decade. As has the public interest in the league, as evidenced by the record 60000+ crowd that watched the NSL final in Perth.

The NSL has been graced by the presence of such international legends as Peter Beardsley, Ian Rush and Nicola Berti, the vast pool of talent currently playing in the NSL has lead several major European clubs to establish feeder teams in an attempt to uncover the next great Australian superstar. Scotlands reigning champions Rangers have a major share in the Northern Spirit while their rivals Celtic have established a partnership with the Melbourne Knights, even Manchester United owned a minor share in the Adelaide Sharks. This has, unfortunately, lead to the stars of the NSL being snapped up by the big-spending European sides, but that is a trend that has been on a sharp decline as the quality of play has improved.

Even those Aussies plying their trade in the European leagues are performing at a level never before dreamed of by the Australian officials. Mark Viduka won the Scottish player of the year title before joining Leeds Utd, where he will team-up with Australia’s own Harry Kewell. Kewell won last seasons Carling Premiership young player of the year, and came third in player of the year voting ( Rumour has him joining Barcelona for $105 million, a fee that would make him the highest paid player in the history of the sport !). Their main opposition for the Premier League title will be Manchester Utd who feature Mark Bosnich as their goalkeeper. Bosnich was recently voted Oceania player of the century and is widely regarded as one of the best shotstoppers on the planet. But Australians aren’t limiting themselves to the Premier League. Serie A runner-up Juventus recently signed Aussie teenager Ivan Ergic as a future replacement for Zinedine Zidane. In Scotland, Craig Moore and Tony Vidmar are the linchpins of the Rangers defence, the strongest defence in the league.

With such quality players gaining valuable experience with the best teams in the world, the Australian public has justifiably high expectations of their national team in the World Cup qualifiers next year, despite the fact that we are likely to come up against Brazil or Colombia along the way. Fans of the Australian team have every right to be optimistic because for the first time in many a year we have a squad that can match it with the big guns of world soccer, and coach Frank Farina knows how to get the best out of his players.

After finally emerging from the "wog-ball" stereotype that dogged its early development Australian soccer has a bright future to look forward to.


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