Graham Arnold is coach to the Australian Socceroos. Apart from having played in 4 World Cup campaigns, he’s been assistant coach to the Aussie team when they were being coached by Guus Hiddink. Oh, and he’s also played a bit of cricket. Sydney grade. With a guy called Steve Waugh.
Steve Waugh’s done a few World Cup campaigns of his own. And when he was younger, played soccer with former NSL club Sydney Croatia and was good enough to win a place in an Australian schoolboys representative team.
No big deal.
Then, this happened.
There was this big hue and cry about Australia playing the Asian championships. How could they ? And even if they did , how would they manage the July heat of Singapore and Bangkok and Malaysia ? And the crazier football (not soccer) crowds of the heart of Asia. And the intrusive media.
The idea of drafting Steve Waugh was Arnold’s who had dealt with him a number of times earlier. This was the deal : Waugh was to spend three days with the Socceroos in Singapore where they were to play a friendly (last weekend) as a part of their preperation for the Quarterfinals in Bangkok. Ahead of that, Arnold had already met with Steve Waugh a number of times and implemented a series of “fantastic ideas”…. The desire was simple. Could you please teach us how to win in all conditions?
Steve Waugh’s first impressions, here.
As it turns out, it wasn’t a bad meeting. Singapore were beaten 3-0. Mark Viduka (who’d nearly thrown a spanner in the works by wondering if he should retire – and if he does not , should he stay after the Asian Championships – and was supported by Steve Waugh in that conflict) scored and Waugh suggested they take some time off and take in the sights and sounds of Singapore. It helps he said. Then he left. He’d be back to be with the team for the semifinals and finals, he said. Like that was a given.
And surely he must have gone on about the joys of representing Australia ? That great Baggy Green ?
“I’m not here to motivate the guys and tell them how great it is to play for Australia because if they’re not motivated already, they shouldn’t be here. I’ll be telling this side, get out there and try to take on the other sides and try to be the premier sporting side in Australia. The cricket guys are No1 at the moment, but why not set yourself the goal of trying to emulate what the cricket guys are doing and being the No1 sporting team in Australia? There is the opportunity.”
How about handling the tag of being “favourites” ?
“The thing I learnt playing for Australia was that pressure and expectation is a good thing because people think you’re a good side.”
And the media ?
Waugh encouraged his players to express themselves – providing they could back it up. “There’s nothing wrong with being confident, but once you say things in the press, then you’ve got to back it up on the park,” Waugh said. “Glenn McGrath was a bit of a loose cannon in the press, but I was happy with him saying what he wanted because I knew he would back it up. “There’s nothing wrong with a message saying we’re confident and we expect to do pretty well.”
And the crowds? Its nothing like back home !
“It was a culture shock for me the first time I toured India in 1985-86,” he said. “Back in those days we had a siege mentality when we went to these places. We heard all the horror stories, but it’s about having an open attitude and getting onto the streets and meeting a few people. You break down that mystique then and you are almost playing in front of your home crowd.”
So the message in a nutshell ?
* Pressure and home expectation should be made welcome
* Don’t worry about what you can’t control, like conditions
* You’ve got to back up whatever you tell the press
* Walk the streets and assimilate with locals
* Drink plenty of water and don’t eat spicy foods
* You have a chance to become Australia’s top sports team
The Simple Mantra of Success
So how far will this Soccer thing go with Steve Waugh ?
“I do get a lot of offers to do stuff,” he says “I have a criteria and the two things I ask myself are, ‘Am I passionate about this project or offer and is it a challenge?’ I said yes straight away because I love soccer and it’s great to get involved in a different sport and have an impact with different players. I am passionate about this.”
“I don’t know where it’s going to lead but [I will] just see how it goes. I like things that take me out of my comfort zone, that test me.”
Well sir , there is this one other job where we’d like the winning habit …