Aussie Fast Track to Sporting Supremacy; Olympic Golds and a Host of World Champions ... Australia Has It All. Now They Have Even Beaten Us at Football. So Is It Merely the Sunshine or Is the Real Difference in Their Attitude to Winning?

Daily Mail (London), November 18, 2000 | Go to article overview

Aussie Fast Track to Sporting Supremacy; Olympic Golds and a Host of World Champions ... Australia Has It All. Now They Have Even Beaten Us at Football. So Is It Merely the Sunshine or Is the Real Difference in Their Attitude to Winning?


Byline: RICHARD SHEARS

WHEN Scotland were trounced 2-0 at Hampden Park by the Socceroos on Wednesday, it seemed the self-confidence the Australians have in abundance was sadly lacking in our national side. Then came news that North Lanarkshire Council had rewritten the rules of football for primary schools so that losing teams get extra help. Could this politically correct aversion to competition be symptomatic of a malaise affecting all sport? Here a Mail writer reveals what the Aussies have that we don't.

THERE'S an old outback saying that promises 'She'll be right, mate' - meaning, for example, that with a bit of luck and good grace a patched-up car engine should deliver its passengers across a sunbaked desert to a safe destination.

It's a sort of Down Under equivalent of 'Don't worry - it'll be all right on the night'. It has been used in all walks of life by those who give false assurances to others, or indeed to themselves, but you'll never hear it spoken by Australian sportsmen or women these days, if you ever did.

In team sports, they are brimming so full of confidence that there is no question of making do, or scraping by. They just know they are going to win.

Cricket...easy. Rugby...not a problem.

Swimming...a breeze. Soccer...watch this space.

Scotland has been served a painful example of the physical and psychological power of the new breed of Aussie sportsmen in two successive trouncings, first by the Wallabies and then the Socceroos. The world champion rugby team - big but fast men with sunshine-coloured jerseys - were always expected to win.

But the Socceroos, representing a minor sport in Australia, have always been a bit 'iffy'.

Yet they also played with a confidence that has surprised even their harshest critics Down Under.

They went at the Scots, said one, as if they had come, not from south of the equator, but south of the Border.

The Socceroos' ascendancy to the heights where they are now demanding respect may be an inspired follow-up to their nation's brilliant performance in the Sydney Olympics, when Australia, with a population of just 19 million, came a credible fourth behind the superpowers of America, Russia and China, with their accumulated thousands of millions.

What, then, was behind Australia's Olympic success - and what has it to do with Scotland's despair? In a nutshell, Australia has in progress a long-term game plan that will see the former British colony getting better by the year to the point where, one sports psychologist predicted yesterday, it will leave even the Americans standing at the starting blocks.

Where does this leave Scotland, which, in a desperate attempt to give its sagging football status a lift, has decided to make things easy for young players in a North Lanarkshire primary school contest by introducing a rule that allows a weak team to field extra players? In another get-out for the outmatched, if one side gets too many goals, the score must be brought back to 0-0.

The new regulations, supported by the Scottish Football Association, have been labelled a farce and many believe the move is likely to take away the competitive spirit of the game. If this is all Scotland has to offer its youngsters, what hope is there for the future?

BUT take heart. This may not be such a foolish idea - if you are prepared to listen to the Aussies. The man who is helping to build up Australia's next wave of super-athletes, sports psychologist and motivator Clark Perry, believes that for younger Scottish players the 'moving the goalposts' idea is a brilliant scheme.

'Any athlete, any sportsman, has to have confidence and, if you have young kids getting thrashed every time they play soccer, they're going to lose the will to go out there,' he says.

'Let them think they're doing well and, if it means giving their team more players, all well and good. …

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