Exclusive Interview: Archie Thompson

Archie Thompson is grateful for second chance at Olympic glory

EXCLUSIVE: Everyone likes a second chance, especially footballers and Melbourne Victory striker Archie Thompson is extremely grateful to be given opportunity to play at the Beijing Olympic Games that kicks off in three weeks time.

For Thompson, the second chance to play at an Olympics is something he wasn-t expecting, but is grateful to Qantas Under 23 coach Graham Arnold for giving him, after being only a standby player at the 2000 Olympics.

Thompson, along with David Carney and Jade North, were chosen as the three over-age players in the 18-man squad and knows that his selection has not gone down well in some quarters, not necessarily because he hasn-t got the ability, but because of the quality of players that missed out with his presence in the team.

It-s something he faced himself in 2000, when Mark Viduka was called into the squad, while he had to be content with being named as one of the next best Under 23 players and missing out.

But he admits the chance to play in China was good to refuse and is determined to prove his selection will be a beneficial one.

“I think I finished his (Graham Arnold-s) sentence for him; I gave him an answer before he had finished asking the question,” he laughs, when recalling the moment Arnold rang him to say he was in the team.

“A few months ago he had approached a few of us (Socceroos), asking if we wanted to be part of the Olympics. I was part of the Olympics in 2000, but was only a standby, so when he mentioned this to me I jumped at the opportunity and I am very grateful.

“To be fair, I didn-t think twice about being part of the Olympic team or being at the Olympics again. It was such a disappointment for myself in 2000, because I was a standby and never really felt part of it at all. I mean we were away from the team; we weren-t in the village and I just didn-t feel a part of it.

“When Arnie called me last week and said Archie you-re an Olympian; I was in shock and I probably still am; I don-t realise how big this is.

“I-ve copped a little bit of flak too, because obviously (Bruce) Djite and Burnsy (Nathan Burns) have missed out and they the up and coming stars of, I feel, for football in Australia and the Socceroos; it-s a shame these sorts of players have to miss out for myself.

“But when an opportunity like this comes along you just don-t turn it down. I-m sure these guys are going to be stronger; better for it and will be character building, as it was the same for me in 2000.”

Thompson knows what his specific role is and is confident that he can do the job asked of him. He is also aware he may have to curb his often ‘cheeky- side where he is often the joker of the group when in camp with Victory and the Socceroos.

“He (Arnold) hopes that I can bring something different up front and my job is to score goals and that-s what I am hoping to do,” he said. “I know that I am more than capable of doing this on my day and I working hard; getting my fitness; getting to know the guys and looking forward to the first game.

“I-d also like to think that I bring experience, or some kind of experience. I-ve got an important role to play; I-m an over-age player and will have to be more responsible; be a leader and I know I can be. I-ve done it with Victory and I am hoping these guys look up to me and I am sure they do.

“I think we-ve got enough quality in that team to really go far and I am grateful to be a part of it.”

With Arnold wanting his three over-age players to be able to fit in easily with the Under 23 players, Thompson has no doubts he will be able to fairly easily and is confident in the team and their ability.

“Yeah definitely,” he said, on fitting in fairly easy with the rest of the team. “They are a great team; they-ve been preparing and playing together for the past 2-3 years; they know each other-s game well.

“When you go into a Socceroos camp, you just sort of gel because you have got good players and it-s easy to fit in and I think now for myself going into this, it-s just so easy to fit in, because they are all good players.

“The guys are old enough now; some of them are playing overseas; played in the Hyundai A-League and some of them have been part of the Socceroos, so I don-t have to hold their hand. They know what there jobs are to do.

“I am not going to the Olympics just to make up the numbers; I want to go as far as I can and that-s my attitude on everything I do. If the guys have the same attitude as me and I think they do, then we can really go far in this competition.”

So is a medal a serious prospect for this team?

“I don-t want to go to an Olympic Games and finish 10th or finish in the top 10; I want to finish in the top three. That-s the attitude I have got; I know that-s the attitude the younger boys have got; Arnie-s got that and we have got a lot of expectations on us, including Frank Lowy.

“I think we have got a good enough team to go as far as any previous Olympic football side from Australia. First things though for Thompson is getting his fitness levels back after coming back from a knee injury, suffered while playing against China in a World Cup qualifying match in March. But once there he is keen to enjoy the experience.

“I am still working on my fitness, obviously strengthening the knee and I am really happy with how its progressed from being with the Socceroos till now. Now its about getting my fitness back, because I haven-t actually played properly in about two months, so its just about getting the agility right, getting the strengthening right.”

“I am looking at just enjoying it and being part of an Olympics and that-s something that will be very special,” he concluded.