Ange Postecoglou’s infamous interview with SBS’s Craig Foster 11 years ago has been seen almost as often as the Zapruder film of John F Kennedy’s assassination.
The context now given to that acrimonious moment is uplifting.
Despite the mauling the then Australian under-20 coach received after his team failed to qualify for the Youth World Cup, Postecoglou has proven his most trenchant critics wrong.
As a dual championship winner at Brisbane Roar and — if you are not one of those who has conveniently forgotten Australia is champion of Asia — the successful coach of the Socceroos, Postecoglou’s story is inspiring.
YouTube: Ange Postecoglou v Craig Foster interview
Often overlooked, however, is the significant period immediately after Postecoglou’s reputation was trashed; a time when he was a coaching pariah.
Such was the damage done by the SBS interview, Postecoglou could not get a job as a third division ball boy. Instead he coached kids for cash in local parks to pay the grocery bills.
It is this period that could help explain why Postecoglou might not be coaching the Socceroos even if they reach next year’s World Cup, as much as the vitriol to which he has been subjected in recent times.
Those outside football who encounter Postecoglou (and, as a disclaimer, I’ve done so occasionally as both a columnist and a fellow Offsiders panellist) are usually struck by both his passion for the game and his enquiring mind.
Postecoglou shares both the ambition and frustration of those Australian fans who believe the game is capable of far more. Yet, unusually in the introspective world of local football, he also understands it is merely part of the crowded Australian sports landscape.
This combination of unusual ambition and local perspective makes him a refreshing alternative to those who carp constantly about the lack of respect Australian football receives, yet who are unwilling or unable to take the difficult steps required to earn wider acclaim.
There is also a hard edge to Postecoglou. His grand ambition for Australian football comes with an uncompromising approach and a determination to do the job properly, or not at all.
The amateur psychologists can determine how much of Postecoglou’s trenchant attitude is the result of that period in which he was humiliated and exiled by Australia’s soccerati.
But it seems obvious he is eager to ensure his fate will never again be decided by the howls of the critics or the mistakes of others. Even if that means leaving a job he cherished.
Which brings us to Australia’s World Cup qualifying campaign and the paralysing fear that has gripped a game already stifled by the feuding between a moribund administration and the A-League clubs. Factors that have made Postecoglou’s job even more difficult.
Certainly as the Socceroos faltered in the back half of qualifying, a level of anxiety was understandable. Never mind that the same people who had warned us that Asian qualification was no walk in the park suddenly expected it to be just that.
Close scrutiny of Postecoglou’s tactics was warranted. But surely critics who advocate qualification by any means possible over the genuine ambition to compete in Russia are obliged to declare their hand.
If you insist Postecoglou’s side is too attacking, tell us how the Socceroos can simultaneously scrounge qualification and then, magically, become a team of substance when it passes through customs in Moscow.
The same critics are also obliged to admit the game’s inconvenient truth — Australia’s larder contains less genuinely top-flight international players than Old Mother Hubbard United.
This despite Postecoglou turning more earth than BHP in his quest to find players capable of performing at the required level. As much as some choose to ignore it, this is not a team underperforming but one performing close to its collective ability.
The result of all this?
In the same week the USA proved how difficult World Cup qualifying can be by failing to do so despite the many advantages bestowed by commercially-driven FIFA, the Socceroos kept their hopes alive.
No, it wasn’t that pretty. Yes, leaving Aaron Mooy on the bench was controversial — although not as controversial as those who misinterpreted Mooy’s post-match comments would have you believe. Yes, it required the wonderfully inevitable intervention of Tim Cahill — twice.
For all that, the Socceroos are just two more nerve-jangling games against Honduras from qualification.
Which is why a report by News Corp that Postecoglou planned to walk away after intercontinental qualifying was both shocking and understandable given both his history with the media and an undercurrent of discontent with the game’s administration.
For a man who is intent on taking Australian football forward on the world stage, doubtless the criticism that would hurt Postecoglou most is that he is treating the national team — a national trust — as a vanity project or that he is being selfish about the timing of his (still unconfirmed) departure.
Given Postecoglou delivered respectable results against enormous odds in Brazil, won the Asian Cup and has taken a mediocre team to the brink of World Cup qualification, it is scurrilous to both condemn the coach for the job he has done and also for walking away.
For those of us who have admired Postecoglou’s adventurous vision, it will be a shame if the Socceroos go to Russia without him.
But after being been hounded out of the game once, with a talent coveted elsewhere and a young family, you can understand why the coach might be determined to leave on his own terms, and for his chosen destination, this time.
For more on the Ange Postecoglou situation join Paul Kennedy and the Offsiders panel — Waleed Aly, Gideon Haigh and Lisa Alexander — 10:00am Sunday on ABC TV.