Homesick Socceroos are desperate to play a World Cup qualifier in Australia after an absence of almost two years.
A 27-man national squad made up almost entirely of overseas-based players is gathering in Qatar this week for a “home” match against China on Friday morning (AEST) in Doha.
Football Australia failed to convince federal and state governments to create a travel bubble that would have exempted players from serving a two-week quarantine period on their arrival home for a match that was scheduled to take place at Sydney’s Bankwest Stadium.
The Socceroos will also play next week against Vietnam in an away qualifier in Hanoi.
Their next scheduled home match is against Oman on October 7, with FA officials confident the game will be held, as scheduled, at Bankwest Stadium thanks to a detailed quarantine plan.
The FA’s plan will propose that travelling players and stuff will be “subject to the highest level of scrutiny on a specific population under Covid controls in Australia so as to deliver safest, clearest result under current state health guidelines”.
“We will also be led by the federal government and state governments on hosting matches in Australia and we strongly support government advice that mass vaccinations is our pathway out of Covid-19,” a FA spokesman said.
“We also support the recent announcement by the NSW government revealing a road map outlining a clear pathway forward in which a range of family, industry, community and economic restrictions will be lifted for those that are fully vaccinated when NSW hits 70 per cent.
“Based on current projections, 70 per cent of the eligible NSW population will be fully vaccinated by the time the next match in October (against) Oman is played, which we hope will be at Bankwest Stadium.”
The squad is out and camp is calling 🙌
Our final round of @FIFAWorldCup qualifying kicks off next week!
— Socceroos (@Socceroos) August 29, 2021
Should the clash against Oman be given the green light to played in Sydney, it’s unlikely fans will be permitted to attend.
However, FA officials are confident spectators will be allowed at the Socceroos’ November 11 qualifier against Saudi Arabia that is also scheduled to be played in Sydney.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold urged the Australian government to allow the matches against Oman and Saudi Arabia to be played on home soil.
“I know the organisation (FA) is working hard and has been working extremely hard with the government to make that happen,” Arnold said.
“The fact is that after this camp, we would have played nine of our (2022) World Cup qualifiers out of 10 away from home.
“The one home game that we have played was in October (2019) against Nepal, down in Canberra, so it’s been a long time for myself and for the boys to play at home.
“They obviously miss playing in front of the fans, the Australian fans. The Socceroos haven’t been on the pitch in Australia for that long that it would be just a great thing.
“We speak about our home record, our away record, (and) it would be just a great thing if the Australian government could help with that because I know that every conversation I do have with the players, it’s always about ‘when are we going to play at home, when are we going to get to see our families, when can we go back and play in front of our fans’?”