Aaron Mooy is making a name for himself in Australia and elsewhere.
The Melbourne City midfielder has followed a fine season for his club with assured performances in the recent international friendlies against England and Greece – he was a standout in those two games – but building the reputation of an A-League player can be a slow process.
Contrast that to last month’s opponents England. As the Three Lions prepare for another international tournament, the relative lack of hype over a team not expected to do well is a refreshing contrast to Mays of yore when the press were rather more willing to allow themselves to get carried away. That doesn’t mean that the media doesn’t still get excited from time to time, as Ange Postecoglou pointed out after his side’s 2-1 loss in Sunderland.
“It’s essential [to get more players playing in top leagues] but it won’t happen until we get rid of this perception of ourselves,” Postecoglou said. “The English are pumping up Marcus Rashford on the basis of a deflected cross and a decent volley, after which he didn’t do much.
“But he plays at Manchester United and he’s got a big, fat contract, and I’m sure he gets elevated to a different level because of that. For some reason we seem to think that Tom Rogic or Aaron Mooy are less worthy of that sort of merit.”
Rashford is perhaps not the best example: if you can’t get excited about an 18-year-old who has been the one shining light in a dismal season at one of the biggest clubs in the world and scored within three minutes of his England debut, then when can you? But the coach has a point in that when it comes to promoting its own, the English media trumps Australian opponents by a much more convincing margin than that seen in the victory at the Stadium of Light.
After the season he has had, Mooy should be a bigger star than he is in Australia. Still, the midfielder has already established himself as an indispensable Socceroo and with the Confederations Cup coming in 2017, the World Cup a year after and then the 2019 Asian Cup, there are three major international tournaments to appear in over a period of just 18 months. Before all that there is time to move to the right European club, settle in, and then start the process of becoming a household name.
It may still be the case that you have to leave the A-League to become that (it would be easier for Mooy internationally if he was Chinese, Korean or Japanese, as there is always major interest in the next potential star from Asia), but that won’t always be the case. The English media, backed by one of the most popular domestic leagues, is the most influential in the football world and can bestow international star status upon a player almost immediately. It is bigger, brasher and louder than its Australian counterpart.
Down under, the football press is in comparison rather gentle, though there is the occasional savaging from elsewhere. There is an unspoken agreement that the game is still growing and constant criticism will not serve any positive purpose. In a limited market where rugby league, Australian rules football and cricket all compete for fans, money and coverage, it is not in the interests of anyone in the football media to regularly belittle the game, clubs, coaches and players. (Football Federation Australia, however, seems to be an anomaly).
If there is a reluctance to bury, there is also a reticence to praise too much –not necessarily a bad thing. The English sword has many edges. Hype can be good, make things exciting, add glamour and stardust but there is a downside to it all. The criticism can sometimes be savage. Reputations get built quickly and destroyed even faster. Australians think they have tall poppy syndrome; England is the mother country in that regard.
Just look at the pressure put on the national team and especially its coaches over the decades. The London press helped David Beckham become one of the biggest sports stars in the nation’s history but he quickly went from golden boy to national disgrace after his red card in the 1998 World Cup – and back again. Fortunately for Goldenballs, he was made of stern stuff and savvy enough to use the media to his advantage. Not all are.
There is always a club or two in crisis after just a few bad results and coaches who have to deal with weeks and months of questions and speculation about their future. That’s not to mention the constant barrage of transfer stories, rumours, comments, opinions and links that can become deafening and draining.
While it is true that Australia could arguably wave its football rattle a little more loudly, perhaps the football environment is healthier for the absence of all the noise. Postecoglou should be careful what he wishes for.
This article was written by John Duerden, for theguardian.com on Sunday 5th June 2016 22.24 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010