A bare Australian stall as the current Asian Cup in Doha, Qatar has been widely ridiculed


Australia’s position in the Asian Football Confederation has long been a topic of conjecture and debate.

The most obvious benefit of leaving Oceania for Asia back in 2006 was a seemingly easier path to the men’s World Cup finals, but the move was also intended to involve Australian football taking part in Asian competitions and spreading the word at all levels.

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Anyone that has followed the journey knows Australia has a checkered history in that pursuit, sometimes opting against sending junior teams to continental tournaments, for example.

But at least the effort was made for major, senior competitions, or so we thought.

A cultural exhibition at the current Asian Cup in Doha, Qatar has painted Australian football in a poor light and led to some strong criticism.

Scott McIntyre, a journalist and Asian football expert, has posted a series of photos of stalls from some of the tournament’s competing nations.

He has included Syria, Oman, Palestine and Australia.

While three of those nations have packed their stalls, as McIntyre states, with “traditional wares/culture” including a “range of food, clothing and traditional games”, the Australian stall looks more bare than a Coles toilet paper aisle in a pandemic.

It’s not completely empty, mind you, bizarrely it is adorned with two bowling pins and a tennis ball.

There is also a brown paper bag, which may or may not be stuffed with budgie smugglers, Farnsey CDs or Australia Day merch, we’re not sure.

It has been confirmed to news.com.au that no one in Australian football was responsible for the stall in question.

A query to the Football Australia media department resulted in the following statement.

“Thank you for reaching out to us regarding the Australian stall at the Asian Cup,” it said in part.

“Upon discovering this activation, we promptly liaised with both the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) to understand the situation more comprehensively.

“It’s important to clarify that Football Australia was not involved and was not consulted in the planning or execution of this particular activation. The AFC and LOC have also informed us that they were not aware of it either.

“Our investigation and inquiries indicate that this was a private initiative from a developer from that precinct, conducted without consultation or engagement with Football Australia, the Asian Football Confederation, or the Local Organising Committee.

“We appreciate your effort in bringing this matter to our attention. Ensuring the representation and branding of Australian football is consistent and impactful at international events is of utmost importance to us.

“Although we were not involved in this instance, we are always keen to explore how we can proactively contribute to and enhance the presentation of Australian football at such prestigious tournaments.

“We are committed to supporting the promotion of football in Australia and ensuring our presence is felt positively at international events.”

So it appears the virtually empty stall was the result of a local developer, who being in Qatar, perhaps wasn’t too clear on Australian culture or was unable to get their hands on some of those stuffed koalas with those little metal claws.

Still, the fact the Australian attempt is directly alongside the Syrian stall, which is jam-packed with all manner of clothes, jewellery and much more, only adds to the barren nature of the Aussie version.

The Socceroos have performed well at the Asian Cup, winning it in 2015 and reaching the quarter-finals this year, and have also been among Asia’s best performing teams at the World Cup over the past two decades.

But Australia’s efforts towards Asian football in general have long been the subject of inside jokes and snide remarks from other countries in the region, as this reporter can attest from a previous role working directly with football in Singapore for three years.

Those feelings towards Australia’s participation in Asia have continued, judging by some of the comments on McIntyre’s post.

Sadly, Australia’s perceived lack of culture was also highlighted.

“To be honest, I’m surprised that they found even that much culture in Australia,” was one comment.

“Because we think this kind of thing is beneath us, of course,” wrote another.

“It’s cus Oz tradition is booze which is haram,” suggested a third.

“Well Australia isn’t really in Asia so perhaps that makes sense,” wrote another.

Another X user felt it should have been a pretty easy task.

“How hard is it to put up a couple of shelves of ugg boots, akubras and RM Williams?” they asked.

Australia has made it to the last eight in the current edition of the Asian Cup, along with Japan, Iran, Qatar, Uzbekistan, South Korea, Jordan and Tajikistan.

The Socceroos face South Korea in the second quarter-final at 2.30am this Saturday, AEDT.