I woke to the muffled sounds of an irritating phone alarm on Wednesday, totally oblivious to the significant news around Australian football that would evolve throughout the day.
A rather intimidating day at the office loomed and the craving for some time spent other than battling to educate our future generation was immense.
My half hour drive to work dragged on due to Sydney traffic that resembled a slow-moving coelacanth and was only pepped by the football report offered by Andy Paschalidis on Sky Sports Radio.
Each morning his summary of the overnight action, as well as his obvious interest in the numerous games currently underway as he channel surfs his way through the report, make me smile as the life of a football tragic in the wrong hemisphere is apparent.
The vast difference in time zones ensures that much of our quality football watching is done in the late hours or at the proverbial sparrow’s fart. Paschalidis soldiers on each day just as the man central to this article did in 84 caps for our nation.
The news of the two goals scored by current golden boy Massimo Luongo gained a special mention towards the end of the report and a broad smile beamed across my face as I recalled the famous scenes of the Asian Cup where the Socceroos set a standard, shook off a monkey and inspired us all.
Just as the recent and impeccable strike by James Troisi in Belgium reminded us all of the talent at our disposal, Luongo’s brace rekindled the youthful enthusiasm of our recent success and nurtured further hope in our national team over the coming months.
As Swindon Town mount a serious challenge for promotion, the net worth of our brightest young talent appears almost unlimited and his star continues to rise. The re-emergence of Tommy Rogic from injury and the continued development of the youthful squad that Ange Postecoglou has assembled are enough to whet the appetite of even the most pessimistic and stern Socceroos supporter.
The hectic international schedule over the next eighteen months provides ample opportunity for this team of youthful and confident young men to take Australian football to an unprecedented level.
All of this positivity and hopefulness was somewhat dulled when the news of the retirement of Mark Bresciano filtered through in the early afternoon. The significance of this announcement should never be overlooked and the timing of it seemed to create a somewhat poetic changing of the guard.
I don’t think I will ever forget the image of Ange Postecoglou and Bresciano in deep conversation after the final of the Asian Cup. Without playing a minute in a glorious final that required the Socceroos to draw on all of their resources in order to repel the best that South Korea had to offer, Bresciano appeared almost apologetic. His body language as Postecoglou embraced him and spoke directly into his eyes seemed to say, “Coach, you did what you needed to do to win the Asian Cup, don’t worry about me.”
It was an image of a man who never suffered from the modern sportsman’s curse of feeling bigger than the overall prize. It also reflected a humility, sportsmanship and sense of team that Bresciano possessed throughout his storied career.
For the 2006 World Cup, the preceding qualifiers, and the Socceroos’ numerous other high points of over the last 10 years, there were still extreme lows that would test the courage and resilience of even the toughest of men.
Bresciano never shirked his responsibility as a leader of the team, he faced ludicrously difficult interviews after embarrassing losses, particularly against France and Germany in recent years. He always provided honest answers and spoke of the future in a positive manner when others were probably drowning their sorrows in the safety of the dressing room.
Over the past 12 months, Postecoglou made an obvious attempt to rejuvenate and reinvent the national team and the investment in youth resulted in the jettisoning of some of the brave warriors who had served us well for many years.
Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neill, Harry Kewell and others were all replaced by younger players; selections questioned by many. Postecoglou’s connections with the youth system led to allegations of favouritism by some, yet there were a couple of staples that were indispensable even to a coach set on evolution.
Tim Cahill and Bresciano were kept on for reasons beyond statistics. Many felt there were no goals beyond Cahill, the coach knew there were. He provided far more than goal-scoring power. His guidance, influence and experience has been captured in the credit afforded him by younger teammates.
Bresciano’s influence may have been even greater, his respected persona across the northern continent in conjunction with his peerless record wearing the Socceroos jersey was never more obvious than on that golden night for Australian football as we held the Asian Cup aloft. His presence was obvious despite the lack of game time.
I will always remember this day as a significant moment in the changing face of Australian football. The much-discussed golden generation has effectively become a beautiful memory, and the future presents bright possibilities along with enormous challenges.
Good luck in the future Mark Bresciano, whatever it holds for you. We enjoyed every moment of it.