‘There are optics about athletes getting exceptions’

Football Australia boss James Johnson has criticised state and federal governments as the Socceroos are forced to look for a temporary overseas home for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

The Socceroos are due to host China on September 2, ahead of an away trip to play Vietnam on September 7.

Football bosses had hoped to play the game at home, utilising “the most complex COVID bubble that world football has seen”.

However, despite advanced talks that continued right up to last week, Johnson said he could confirm that the match would not take place in Australia.

“We were confident until almost the last week or so we would be playing in Sydney,” Johnson said.

“As recently as last week we thought we would be playing here.

“The NSW government have now said they cannot justify the allocation of police and security to make the bubble work.”

Graham Arnold believes Australia has the players to deal with anything Asia throws at them. (

AAP: James Gourley


Johnson said Football Australia was now looking at taking the match elsewhere in Asia, naming Hong Kong, Singapore, Qatar and the UAE as possible options.

The Socceroos also have home matches on October 7 and November 11 against Oman and Saudi Arabia respectively. 

Johnson said playing matches away from home would doubtless make it harder for the Socceroos to qualify for the 2022 tournament.

The Socceroos’ last game on home soil was in October 2019, a 5-0 win over Nepal in Canberra.

“We want the governments, both federal and the states, to act on facts and figures and logic,” Johnson said.

“We have medical advice that the risk of playing at home is zero to none”.

“There are optics about athletes getting exceptions [to COVID restrictions].

“But around the group, the likes of Oman, Iran, South Korea, each of these countries are celebrating teams returning with players at home.

Part of the issue is that players are only obligated to be released by their clubs nine days before an international fixture, which does not fit in with the 14 days’ quarantine still mandated by the federal government.

“There’s a step we’re hoping we can make with governments as early as October.”

Johnson said they had been going through all the details before things got stopped.

“We were talking about nets in stadiums, about red zones and green zones — it would have been the most complex COVID bubble that world football has seen,” he said.

A side-on mid shot of Socceroos manager Graham Arnold on the sideline at night wearing a black jacket with arms outstretched.
Socceroos manager Graham Arnold said it was sad that Tony Vidmar was caught in double quarantine.(

AAP: James Gourley


Socceroos boss Graham Arnold did not return to Australia to avoid having to quarantine, however his Olyroos assistant, Tony Vidmar, is facing 28 days of quarantine.

“Tony’s been away with us for 75 days. Sixty-eight days he’s been tested,” Arnold said.

“He’s had two vaccines. He’s done 14 days’ quarantine [on return] and he can’t get home to his own state. It’s sad.”

He added that not being able to play at home would make things hard, but he had confidence his players had the ability to play against top Asian opposition.

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