For anyone who questions the state of football in Australia, have a look at the replay of Sunday evening’s A-League All Stars clash with Juventus at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
Take note of the 55,364 people that turned up to create a truly international-type atmosphere.
Check out the quality of players Juventus brought to Australia and the effort they were forced to put in on the pitch, beyond what is usual for an exhibition encounter for such a highly-credentialed club.
Watch the intensity, commitment and fluency with which the representatives of the A-League, brought together only ten days before, played together.
Pay attention to the system and tactics employed by Adelaide United coach Josep Gombau, and his player’s ability to employ them.
Watch it all again and if you still believe Australian football has not come on in leaps and bounds, well, you are a very hard task-master indeed.
We sometimes have the tendency to get carried away, us sports fans, especially when our hopes are based on a want, or even need, to watch our team do well.
We can look at a performance and see it through rose-coloured glasses, perhaps not quite in tune with the reality of where our team is actually at, in terms of ability if not commitment.
I’ve thought a lot about what I witnessed in the All-stars/Juventus match, tried to remain objective to the last despite my pride for my nation and love of the game, and keep my feet firmly planted on the ground in asking a simple question.
Where exactly are we as a footballing nation?
Right now, in a very very good place.
At grass-roots level, the popularity of football in Australia has not been questioned for some time.
Participation levels have been through the roof, with the number of kids around the country choosing the round-ball game right up there with any of its rival sports.
What was in question, especially in the early days of the A-League, was the quality of football at the top, with the majority of Australian players having to ply their trade overseas to be taken seriously as professional footballers.
The success of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Socceroos and the excitement they brought to Australian football took a while to filter down to domestic level.
As we prepare to embark on Season 10 of the A-League, this has well-and-truly changed, and Sunday evening’s performance is evidence of it.
The Italian giants won, as most thought they would, but they were twice behind in a game that was, for the majority of it, controlled by the All-Stars.
The home-side was organised in attack and harassed their opponents with purpose in defence, all the while playing with a confidence and flair that would be at home in the Italian top-flight.
Even more impressively, the representatives of the A-League back-up their work rate with quality finishing.
Adelaide United’s Marcelo Carrusco and Western Sydney’s Tomi Juric provided strikes that were both out of the top draw and were scored against a defensive unit that has helped their club to four straight Serie A titles.
Only two late strikes saved Juventus from what would have been a famous, and deserved, victory for the All Stars and Australian football.
The time is right for the game to take the spotlight in this country following the quality of performances the Socceroos produced in Brazil and the momentum, and interest, gained from it.
We need a domestic competition that reflects that quality and allows us to build on the respect already afforded us from the rest of the footballing world.
If Sunday’s match is anything to go by, we are in for a ripper of an A-League season in 2014/15.
I for one will be approaching it with just that little bit more excitement and anticipation.
What do you think Sunday’s result means for the A-League and football in general in Australia?