Olyroos coach Graham Arnold has called on Australia’s soccer administrators to financially back his young side after they booked their place at the Tokyo Olympics.
Australia beat Uzbekistan 1-0 in the third-place playoff at the AFC Under-23 championships in Bangkok on Saturday night to secure Olympic qualification.
It will be the first tournament the Olyroos have appeared in 12 years, and the occasion was not lost on their mentor.
“This is close to being the greatest achievement of my coaching career because, again, this wasn’t part of my job,” Arnold said of the victory.
My job is to coach the Socceroos, but I felt I needed to step in and help these kids because you want to give these kids a great, great journey in life.”
Arnold made a compelling case that the win could potentially offer much more to Australian soccer than just an appearance in Tokyo later this year.
He said with proper financial investment in the Olyroos, the senior national team would benefit immensely down the track.
“The organisation now has to find money for preparation and prepare these kids properly,” he said.
“Maybe in the past it’s been 10 days’ preparation, we don’t qualify and they shut the whole program down. Now this program will continue for these kids and we’re going to get great footballers from that. It’s a huge thing for Australian football. Huge.”
Arnold also reiterated his call for Australian administrators to create more opportunities for younger players to get regular and consistent game time in a professional environment.
“I’ve been saying since being in the job for 18 months that we need a reserve grade league as quick as possible,” he said.
“This age group gets hurt more than anyone. We have the NYL (National Youth League) that has eight games a season. These kids are too old for that, but then they’re not deemed good enough to be part of the A-League.
“I’m not saying they should play in the A-League, but give them somewhere to play in a professional environment with professional resources and then you’ll get great footballers.”