There was little fanfare for them before, but the Socceroos are expected to be treated like gods when they make their long-awaited return to Perth to launch their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Only 13,719 fans turned up to watch the Socceroos in 2005 when they beat Indonesia 3-0 at Subiaco Oval.
The poor turnout consigned Perth to the back of the queue for future hosting rights, but the city has re-emerged after 10 years in the dog house.
The Socceroos’ bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia begins this year, and Perth’s nib Stadium has been chosen as the location for the first home game.
Ten years ago, the Socceroos were struggling for traction in Australia. But after appearing in two consecutive World Cups plus winning the Asian Cup, the Socceroos have become one of the hottest tickets in town – wherever they go.
FFA chief executive David Gallop is confident more than 20,000 fans will pack out nib Stadium when the Socceroos come to Perth, but he says it’s now up to the West Australian public to show the city deserves more games.
“Every time we play it’s an opportunity for people to vote with their feet by coming out,” Gallop said on Monday.
“The Socceroos are on a roll. They are Asian Cup champions.
“We know they played well in Brazil without getting results, and this a fresh opportunity to see this fantastic young team playing in Australia.
“These opportunities don’t come around very often.
“This game means something – it’s a genuine qualification game, so I would expect fans would want to get out and watch the Socceroos.”
It is expected the first home qualifier will take place in either June or September 2015, but the date and opponent will be confirmed during the first-round draw in April.
The first round of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers comprises 40 Asian Football Confederation teams split up into eight groups.
The winners of all eight groups and the four best runners-up will then progress to the final stage of qualifying, which will see the 12 nations drawn into two groups of six.
Gallop is also keen for a blockbuster Socceroos clash – possibly against England – to open Perth’s $1 billion stadium at Burswood, which is set to be up and running by 2018.
“The Socceroos are the team we think represents the diversity, the multiculturalism of the country,” Gallop said.