Mark Schwarzer Feature: Part 1

Part 1 of the Mark Schwarzer interview, talks on continuing his career to at least the 2010 World Cup.

He is a husband, father, children-s book author, all round good guy, but he is best known for his heroics between a set of goalposts playing football. Mark Schwarzer is the Socceroos undisputed No.1 goalkeeper and wants nothing more than to be at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, despite by the time the tournament commences, being the tender age of 37.

He is just as motivated now as he was when he first started playing professionally and his move to Fulham Athletic during the off-season will give him a fresh and invigorating challenge that is sure to keep him on track for that 2010 goal.

David Cooper caught up with Mark at the teams- base in Dubai, UAE, where the Socceroos are playing vital World Cup qualifiers. Due to the length of the interview, it will be spread over two different articles

David Cooper (DC) - You made the decision to continue on to hopefully the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. When did it hit you that-s what you were going to aim for? Mark Schwarzer (MS) - I made the decision definitely during the World Cup, but I had always had that thought in my mind to go right through to 2010. Being at the World Cup (2006) and experiencing it and feeling that I am fit; hopefully playing well enough and staying fit, there was no reason why I thought I couldn-t go on till then and accomplish that goal.

DC - What was so special about the 2006 World Cup for you personally? MS - It was the realization of a childhood dream first and foremost that you helped Australia qualify for the World Cup for only the second time in its history. I think in 74 it was an amazing accomplishment by the players, but the game has evolved so much since then; the commercial side of the game has evolved and is such a more recognizable sport around the world now. The attention that was on us as one of the teams at the World Cup was enormous and it-s the be all and end all tournament to be in; you are playing against the elite players in the world and it-s an amazing experience; one you will cherish for the rest of your life and one I made very clear during and after the World Cup that I would like to emulate in 2010.

DC - Will the move to Fulham Athletic help you achieve this goal, in terms of the new challenge it provides? MS - That was definitely one of the reasons behind making the move. I think when you have been at the one club (Middlesbrough) for that long, you can become part of the furniture as you say. I think sometimes you need to go out there again and set yourself new goals and test yourself even more so and get out of the comfort zone. I for one wanted to go out and test myself again; try something new and I felt that Fulham was an ideal opportunity for me. It turned out to be a very happy ending to their season, but a very long and difficult season and one that Roy Hodgson, after speaking to him in some depth, wanted to make sure didn-t happen again for the club. He saw me as one of the players that was going to help Fulham turn things around. That desire and determination to bring me to the club was something that I hadn-t experienced for quite a while and was very appealing to me and I thought it was a great opportunity for me to move on.

DC - You were linked with the likes of Bayern Munich and Juventus, which most people would give their right arm to play for. Why Fulham and not either of those two clubs? MS - the key word is playing; when I spoke to Bayern directly, they made it pretty clear they were not looking for a number 1 and not looking at me as a number 1 and while flattered by the interest and opportunity to go to such a big club, my aspirations are to play football and not one to sit on the bench and be happy to sit on the bench. Sometimes that happens and you have to be part of a team, but if I can choose to go to somewhere I know where I will be perceived to be number one, rather than being a number 2 with little chance of playing, I would rather take that option any day. Fulham is by no means a Juventus or Bayern Munich, however it-s a team that-s established itself over the last 7-8 years in the Premiership and is a team that wants to continue to grow and move forward.

DC - You-ve signed for two years with Fulham that takes you to the end of the 2010 World Cup. Will that be the end of your club career, or is their perhaps a swansong back in Australia? MS - I don-t see myself ending my career in 2010; obviously there is that possibility that I might for the national team and probably more likely. I haven-t set myself a date; a time to say this is it. World Cup 2010 is obviously a major goal for me and first and foremost it-s a major goal for the whole of Australia to be part of this team that will qualify for its second consecutive World Cup and if I can be part of that; play there; do well; play as good as we did at the last World Cup and I would have to consider what I do afterwards. From a club level point of view, I still see myself playing another year or two after that.

DC - You recently broke the record for the most number of international appearances by a goalkeeper for Australia. How does that make you feel and do you have any sort of number that you would like to achieve? MS - I set myself a goal of wanting to achieve 75 caps. After I reached 50, I thought wouldn-t it be nice to try and reach 75, but I didn-t realize up until a couple of months ago that the record was there to be broken and I was very close to doing so. It-s nice to do it, but I think it-s one of those records, as it was with the record for having the most appearances by a foreigner with one club; it-s one of those achievements you will probably recognise and admire a little bit more once you finish and reflect on career.

Part 2 - on Thursday