Everyday Australians are the secret weapon in the fight for the right to host football's showpiece event.
In a recent article I penned for Goal.com, I urged the Football Federation Australia FFA to find a secret weapon so Australia could fight the bids of England, USA and Russia. Those bids had some big hired guns.
The US has Barack Obama, England has David Beckham’s golden balls and Russia were going to get ex-Aussie coach Gus Hiddink to help spruce up their bid.
My suggestion of putting three of Australia’s most famous and beautiful actresses in a Socceroos shirt and having AC/DC play 'It's A Long Way To The Top' at the launch fell on deaf ears. Perhaps I should keep such fantasies to myself...
Instead, the FFA Australia has its own secret weapon for its World Cup bid.
And that is you and me, Australia; we, the people, are the secret weapon.
The World Cup Bid launch included 1974 FIFA World Cup Socceroo Harry Williams, Socceroos captain Lucas Neill, newly crowned Australian Player of the Year Mark Schwarzer and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
The chairman of the FFA, Frank Lowy, spoke about Australia’s secret weapon, it s position in Asia and Australia’s proud record of hosting major events.
Australia’s “secret weapon” is the Australian people, and Australia as a destination.
“People from all over the world want to visit our country.
“Thanks to the performance of the Socceroos at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, as well as the many thousands of Australian fans who followed them, the rest of the world has a very positive view of us.”
Frank Lowy told an audience of politicians, media, past, present and aspiring Socceroos and FFA partners that:
“We believe this bid is realistic and it’s achievable,”
“Hosting the World Cup would provide Australia with an unparalleled opportunity and give Australia a lasting and living legacy for generations to come.
“On the world stage, there is no event with the same level of global appeal or audience reach as the FIFA World Cup.”
For Australia to host the World Cup in 2018, South Africa, Brazil and then Australia, it would mean that the World Cup would be away from Europe for 20 years.
The sceptics, in and out of Australia, say that FIFA would never allow that to happen. However, with Australia entering the Asian confederation in 2006 and Asia being one of football’s fastest growing regions, the FFA believes it has a great chance.
The benefits of a World Cup being in the Asian confederation for only the second time in its history will be clear to FIFA, as their biggest objective is to grow the game.
The World Cup being played in Australia with its close proximity to Asia in distance and time zones will help go some way in achieving FIFA’s responsibility to reach out and touch the world, using football as a symbol of hope and integration.
Mr Lowy spoke about the benefits of Australia being in Asia, saying that the cumulative global television audience in 2006 was 26.2 billion, with the single largest audience group coming from the Asian Football Confederation, of which Australia is a member.
“Asia is on the rise economically, in terms of goods and services and in football,” he said. “Australia is part of the Asian Football Confederation and is in the Asian time zone.”
One of the benefits of hosting a World Cup in Australia is the great record the country has in hosting memorable sporting events. Lowy also spoke about Australia’s record at the launch.
“Bidding for, and hosting, the FIFA World Cup is a natural corollary of our proud history in staging major events as a strategy to grow, develop and promote Australia as a nation.
“Events such as the 1956 and 2000 Olympic Games, four Commonwealth Games, the Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Indy 500, the Rugby World Cup, the Cricket World Cup, the Australian Open, the FIFA World Youth Cup and World Youth Day have all added to Australia's reputation and image as a nation, and as a serious and credible contender in major event hosting and management.”
Also at today’s launch, the FFA unveiled a website for Australia’s bid at www.australia2018-2022.com.au, which is a football-themed social networking site. “We invite people from all over Australia and the world to join the bid by signing onto our website,” Lowy said.
The FFA also unveiled a promotional film which showcases Australia as a destination, as well as highlighting its football and event hosting credentials, encouraging the world to ‘Come Play!’ The film features the Socceroos as well, as a ball travelling around Australia visiting every state and territory showcasing cities, stadia, the outback, wineries and beaches with everyday Australians in a playful mood.
The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made an appearance in the promotional film.
“We are delighted that the Prime Minister accepted our invitation to be in the promotional film, as it emphasises to the international community that our bid is backed by the Government. “This bid is for football, but it is also for Australia,” Lowy added. “We have many milestones between today and when the decision is made and we hope that all Australians can join this bid 100 per cent.”
FFA will be required to make a final presentation to FIFA, football’s world governing body, in December 2010, prior to a decision being made. “I have the personal commitment of our political leaders to this bid,” said Mr Lowy. “We have the goodwill and support of other sporting codes around the country. “And we now invite all Australians to enlist in what we hope will be an exciting and successful campaign to bring the greatest show on earth to the world’s greatest playground.” The campaign to bring the World Cup to Australia begins now.
The perception of Australia as a safe welcoming country that loves sports is one of the bids biggest selling points, as well as being part of fastest growing region in football, Asia.
The FFA will have a fight on its hands to sway the 23-man FIFA executive committee in choosing Australia over the other bidders.
Sydney got the Olympics in 2000 against all the odds, why not believe that the World Cup could come in Australia in 2018?
The FFA believes it’s about you and me - do you?