In 2004, the then freshly minted powers at be at Football Federation Australia, proudly took over the reins of our beloved sport in Australia. They immediately announced that they were going to create ‘New Football’.

It was for the good of the sport and the whole of… Australia, they said.

Behind the comforts of their million dollar salaries, one of the FFA’s first pronouncements included turning its back on old soccer.

Old soccer was f*#@%n gone… and New Football was in!

That was the old soccer built by people like you and me. People whose names ended in the letter ‘s’ or ‘ic’ or ‘ski’ or a vowel.

The first generation migrants from Greece, Serbia, Croatia, Northern Makedonia, Italy, Albania, Hungary, Holland, England, South America and we, their children, who have made such an enormous contribution in every field of endeavour in our homeland, Australia, were (unceremoniously) out.

The decades of voluntary contributions, the fund raising, manning the souvlaki/cevapi stands, enduring cold winter nights in substandard facilities and being overlooked by the formal funding protocols that applied to sports like Aussie Rules, wasn’t enough.

All those efforts – of hundreds of thousands first and second generation migrants around Australia – were dismissed and wiped away, like a bug off a windscreen.

Thanks for coming.

After having played in some of the biggest clubs in the world, at the end of his career, Mark Viduka was asked what was the highlight of his career?

His answer came without hesitation, “playing for Melbourne Croatia, especially against Hellas.”

The game was intense, alive, passionate, turbo charged and he played amongst people he grew up with and revered.

And that from Mark Viduka, probably Australia’s best soccer-playing export.

Back in Australia, the FFA teleported its CEO from Rugby to the FFA throne – having not spent even one minute in the sport.

But he knew and we wogs and our dysfunctional, Neanderthal ways, had no place in the sanitised nirvana imagined of the future.

Beyond this, we were financially illiterate and – according to ‘million dollar a year man’ – we couldn’t even run a chook raffle.

With Federal Government support (tens of millions of dollars in grants) sophisticated TV rights, mega corporate sponsorships, lavish media coverage and modern player contracts all backed by the benevolence of one of Australia’s top billionaires, what could go wrong?

Almost twenty years later, we know all too well what’s wrong.

The artificial monopoly referred to as the A-League is a mess. Virtually every club is bankrupt or has been. The outlier being Melbourne Victory.

The A-league has even included howlers like the Brisbane Sandstorm and the Townsville Tornados. Yes, I know that wasn’t their name – but who cares. Brain farts aplenty.

Restructures, reviews, consultants, new owners – all have been tried.

Imagine turning your back on the hard-core north-western suburbs of Melbourne and punting the sports future in … Townsville!

The north western suburbs of Melbourne have more kids playing junior soccer than Townsville has people. Good one FFA.

They threw the baby out with the bath water. They didn’t have a clue.

What’s missing? A beating heart with a dash of culture.

Was everything great in the ‘good-old’ days? Of course not. And we, who were there (and are still here) are the first to admit it.

But it is as though, successive administrations of the FFA have made every effort to continue to alienate their core constituency for the titillation of the new ‘mum and kids’ consumer.

IMHO, it’s been twenty years of sheer madness. Even the formation of national second division has been so drawn out that the whole process has been almost as exhilarating as extracting teeth.

Preston Lions v South Melbourne.

This history was brought into sharp relief last night when, along with almost 7,000 others, I had the great privilege of attending the game at O’Connor Reserve.

The Australia Cup has been one of the few democratising aspects of the FFA. The Australia Cup invites every club across the country to take part. Revolutionary.

You know that old adage; a game is always more fun when everyone gets a go.

And no, you don’t need an MBA or a consultant’s report to know that one.

It is the antithesis of the protected pyjama party known as the A-League.

The anticipation in the days leading up to the game was riveting. Everyone I know involved in grass roots soccer was talking about it. The social media was abuzz as a new generation was consumed in the vortex of excitement of …old soccer!

Two great clubs, with deep histories and a rich heritage were in the limelight and vying for a chance at the title.

Even I consulted the social media gods for the latest and was informed by Ms Ashley Maikousis and Ms Silvana Naumovski of all the detailed arrangements in place for the game.

Preston and South, co-operating, in partnership, working as allies instead silliness. It was bloody heartening.

Pretty impressive – yes, both the message and the two lovely ladies delivering it.

I arrived more than an hour before the game, helped myself to a scotch and coke, a cevapi (kebapi) roll and cash was welcome! I stood with the Preston fans and brought with me the ultimate peace offering – a smile and a big bag of warm salted mixed nuts that I shared around liberally with my new friends.

Packed in, old and young, it was standing room only. It seemed that the only place fans weren’t perched was in the rafters. And the fans were in great spirits and the old chants began.

Bring it on – it was 3D soccer for petrol heads.

The tension was palpable and within a minute Preston scored. The jubilance around the stadium was measurable on the Richter scale.

The Preston Lions have done a remarkable job rebuilding their Club. Their fan engagement is excellent, they have great sponsors and are now the best supported Club outside the A-League.

It is the only time in 50 years of supporting South that I can remember being outnumbered 3-1.

With a stronger and fitter squad, it quickly became obvious to me that it was only a matter of time before South began to exert their superiority on the pitch.

At half time, I prudently moved to the south supporter zone. The second half was a one way affair as the South ‘panzers’ easily outshone the opponents.

But for me and the many thousands that had the privilege, the final score was almost irrelevant.

Nights like this makes it feel great to be alive.

Bring on the Second Division and bring on promotion and relegation.

Go South and Go the Preston Lions.