Through adversity & sacrifice: How Graham Arnold learned what it means to be a Socceroo

Through his experiences as a player, assistant, and head coach over the years, Graham Arnold has lived out exactly what it means to be a Socceroo. 

As he prepares to lead the national team back into battle following its longest period of inactivity in 60 years, the Socceroos coach provided a powerful insight into the cultural fabric that drives the Green and Gold forward. 

Between 1985 and 1997, Arnold scored 34 goals as he represented his nation 85 times, including 56 'A' Internationals. Since retiring, he has served in the technical area at football's grandest tournaments, from the FIFA World Cup to the Olympic Games and Asian Cup.


With the long list of challenges sprung up by the COVID-19 pandemic, he is using everything that he has learned from years past to ensure the Socceroos continue to represent what it means to be Australian. 

"When I signed up for this role I never thought I'd have to move away for six months to 12 months from my wife and my kids, my family and my grandkids, but it is what it is," the Socceroos Head Coach said. 

"When you look at the history of Australian football and the Socceroos, 606 players have played for the Socceroos in 100 years. That's an average of six a year, that's massive. 

Not many people in the country can say that they played for the Socceroos, that's how special it is. I'm getting goosebumps now just talking about it.

"But that's how special it is, every time I give out a cap I have to make sure that this is worthwhile and it's warranted, and that player has achieved it."

Since his first camp back in charge of the national team, Arnold has invoked a clear emphasis on building culture. 

Through this, he and the coaching staff have consciously taken on an important mentoring role, not only to help ensure the side fight for success on the international stage, but also to assist in building players set for successful careers.

"For me, I always tried to be a manager in a father figure way," Arnold explained. 

"It's such an honor to coach your country, but at the end of the day it's just about helping kids, the players, and during COVID it's just given an extra addition of caring for people, for me on that side of it. I do everything I can to support the players and if I ever needed to do that more, it's now - that's what I intend to do.

"I'm very passionate about the nation, the country, the game of football, the Socceroos, and just wanting to help the kids and the players individually. It's their careers, you only have a short lifespan as a professional footballer and these type of experiences are unique." 

Catching up with Michael Zappone on the hallowed turf of Stadium Australia, home to the treasured moments Australia sealed qualification for four FIFA World Cups and more, Arnold remarked, "when it's full, it's crazy." 

Recalling the emotions associated with those landmark moments in the nation's footballing history only supports the weight the Socceroos shirt holds, and the powerful affinity between the players and fans that has developed over the years. 

While due to ongoing international travel commitments, Australia won't enjoy the luxury of playing on home soil when they make their long-awaited return, the Socceroos coach cannot hide his excitement as the squad's reunion nears ever closer. 

Looking back on Australia's last international men's fixture - a historic 1-0 away win against Jordan back in November 2019 - Arnold is keen to recapture that fighting spirit in the coming weeks. 

"It was a great performance where we had to grind it out," he said. 

"Sometimes you don't play to the ability that you can but hey, you got a result. I was very proud of the boys that night. 

If someone had said to me that day that we would wait 18 months for our next game I wouldn't believe it.

"But it's a pandemic the world is going through and the Socceroos family is getting back together next week and I can't wait. The fact that there are four games in a little mini-tournament is a great way to rebuild the Socceroos." 

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