The signs of a looming catastrophe are everywhere. In Australia, we aren’t qualifying for the Youth World Cups at all and the majority of those youth national teams are made up of the best talent of the parents who can pay for $2500 a year for Elite Football. The current senior national team is made up of players who had parents who could pay the high fees for Elite Football. Not all players, but a large percentage. So is it any wonder that the only player in the current Australian team who took a unique and different way to make it in football, had the most impact. Of course, I am talking about Tim Cahill.
But the pay to play culture in Australia is killing the sport. It’s become even more evident over the last 5 years in this country how “elite football” in this country has become a billion dollar industry. And the competitive kids who are selected early because they are born at the start of the year and run faster than all the rest, keep getting retained in these elite programs because they were there first in, even when the kids born later have shown to have better skills and game intelligence.
This pay to play culture eliminates the potential x-factor player and makes football a sport that kids from upper-middle class parents can play at an “elite level”. That kid that didn’t even trial for an elite team because of the fees or that kid which got selected for an elite team at U9’s and then had to withdraw because the parents couldn’t pay, is now probably kicking goals in AFL or scoring tries in Rugby League.
The biggest problem of “pay to play” is that it removes the individual from the team and from learning the language of football. It makes it all about the individual. With the investment of parents, they expect results for their child, the individual. Australia is a country that has a population which includes every race of the world and somehow the coaches/selectors are not able to find “real talent”.
I wonder why.