Today we are joined by Trevor Thompson
, a journalist who has reported on association football in Australia and around the world since the 1980s. He is also the author of Playing for Australia: The First Socceroos, Asia, and World Football
(Fair Play Publishing, 2018). In our conversation, we discussed the limitation of Australia’s connection with British football in the interwar period, Australia’s Asian football connections, and the future for Australian football in the Asia-Pacific.
In Playing for Australia
, Thompson investigates the Asian context of some of Australia’s earliest international soccer matches. He notes that Australia’s engagement with Asian football did not start in with their adherence to the Asian Football Confederation in 2006. Instead, Thompson illustrates the long durée history of Australian connections in Asia-Pacific football. In 1922, Australia competed in their first internationals against New Zealand. The next year, a side from China visited Australia touring Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Over the next decade, Australian teams mostly competed against teams from Asia and South Asia and representative teams from Australia also travelled multiple times to the Dutch East Indies, Singapore, and Malaya.
Thompson’s revision of Socceroos early years raises tantalizing possibilities for what Australian football might have looked like had its early organizers been more ambitious, cosmopolitan, aware, united, and even more Asian. He argues that Aussie cultural fealty to Great Britain slowed the growth of Aussie football during the crucial decades of its international expansion. The ignorance of early organizers, the disunity of state soccer federations, and the arrogance of the FA caused Australia to miss their chance to compete in the first two World Cups. This book will appeal to readers interested in Australian, Asian, and sports history.
Keith Rathbone is a lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He researches twentieth-century French social and cultural history. His manuscript, entitled
A Nation in Play: Physical Culture, the State, and Society during France’s Dark Years, 1932-1948, examines physical education and sports in order to better understand civic life under the dual authoritarian systems of the German Occupation and the Vichy Regime. If you have a title to suggest for this podcast, please contact him at email@example.com.