The Big Issue : Edition 475
14 THEBIGISSUE9–22JAN2015 COVER STORY » BY FIONA CRAWFORD WHEN DUTCHMAN GUUS Hiddink propelled Australia’s national men’s football (soccer) team to World Cup success in 2006, he was heralded a hero. ‘Aussie Guus’ had, after all, guided the Socceroos to match the world’s best – even coming a dodgy penalty’s breath away from defeating eventual champions, Italy. His successors (Pim Verbeek, then Holger Osieck) subsequently experienced the nation’s full weight of expectation and none of Hiddink’s triumphs, and were scuttled from the role amid fans calling for their visas to be cancelled. Such is the lot of a coach: maestro or hack; hero or villain; beloved or despised. The Coach CURRENT SOCCEROOS COACH Ange Postecoglou understands those extremes better than most. A former player, the 49-year-old has experienced the full gamut of title-winning highs (he remains Australia’s most successful club coach with two premierships, four championships and a continental title to his credit) and missing-World-Cup- qualification lows. Postecoglou is a man of few words: he enjoys football and coaching, not the accompanying attention. And, with a media pack that lauds him one moment and savages him the next, he has good reason to be guarded. His 2006 on-air war of words with football commentator Craig Foster is preserved on YouTube for perpetuity. In it, Foster castigates Postecoglou for his poor Young Socceroos results, saying: “Your results tell everything.” Postecoglou, wounded and frustrated, fires back: “So you’re saying I should resign...is that right?” Postecoglou was dismissed from the Young Socceroos shortly after the incident. A few years on, he was the most celebrated and sought-after coach in the Australian domestic league, the A-League. Former national women’s team coach Tom Sermanni acknowledges Postecoglou can come across as guarded, but finds him great company: “I just think the positions he’s been in, and the way the game is, he’s careful and cautious of what he might say to media or who he might bring into his inner sanctum.” Sermanni has a better idea than most regarding such a strategy. As coach of the Matildas, he took the team to two World Cup quarterfinals, as well as an Asian Cup win in 2010. Setting Field the IN 2011, AUSTRALIA WAS RUNNER-UP IN THE ASIAN CUP. FOUR YEARS LATER IT’S ON AGAIN, AND ON HOME SOIL. BUT ARE THE SOCCEROOS, AND THEIR EMBATTLED COACH, REALLY MATCH READY?