Just eight days after Australia found itself suffering from a severe dose of football fever - courtesy of the Socceroos dramatic FIFA World Cup™ qualification - Sydney's media were again out in force on 24 November. This time the attraction was the Australian unveiling of the FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup Japan 2005 trophy for which continental winners Sydney FC will next month be vying.
The venue for the media throng, which included a healthy contingent of Japanese who were attracted by the presence of Sydney FC guest player and Nippon legend Kazuyoshi Miura, was Aussie Stadium, home of Sydney FC, and a short trip across town from Telstra Stadium, scene of last week's theatrics. Reporters heard from a host of dignitaries including FIFA representatives, Sydney FC players and Football Federation Australia's top brass.
Star turn were the Sydney players, key amongst them Dwight Yorke, fresh from his own World Cup triumph with Trinidad & Tobago, as well as Miura. Also on hand were Socceroo players David Zdrilic and Steve Corica plus former Northern Ireland youth international Terry McFlynn.
Sydney FC coach Pierre Littbarski, chief executive Tim Parker, as well as Football Federation Australia chief executive John O'Neill representing OFC were also present.
Living the dream
It is often said that a year is a long time in football but that statement has never been truer than in the context of Sydney FC, the glamour team of the fledgling Australian A-League. By any measure Sydney FC will be the newest kid on the block in Japan and in stark contrast to the other participants, many of whom have a rich history; they are currently one of the youngest clubs in world football.
It was only on 1 November last year that the club was founded as part of the new competition and Sydney did not take the competitive field until 7 May 2005. Since then the team from Australia's harbour city qualified for, and subsequently won, the Oceania club championship and made great inroads both on and off the field in this new era for the Australian game.
Coach and FIFA World Cup legend Pierre Littbarski can call on genuine world stars such as Yorke and Miura, plus a host of Australian internationals as they prepare to take on the world next month in Japan.
"In a short time we have achieved a lot," said the three-time FIFA World Cup finalist. "For me this is just like a dream from which I don't want to wake up. We are just a young team that has qualified for an extraordinary tournament and I think it is a dream that can go on. We will try our very best to perform at the highest level that we can."
Should the Sydney-siders see off the considerable challenge of CONCACAF champions Deportivo Saprissa, they will take on European Champions Liverpool in the semi-finals. The Reds have a considerable following Down Under not least of all because they boast the talents of Socceroo hero Harry Kewell.
Even the Costa Rican outfit have a quirky connection to Australia having toured the country playing matches in Sydney way back in 1959.
The future is Asia
Australia will become a member of the Asian Football Confederation on the first day of 2006 but the ties are already strong and none more so that at Sydney FC.
Kazuyoshi Miura might now be in the veteran class but his status in Japan is almost iconic and the presence of Kazu is set to ensure that Sydney FC receive huge attention in the Land of the Rising Sun. Over 40 travelling media were on hand to greet the 38-year-old when he jetted into Sydney and now keenly follow his every move.
"We are enormously proud to be going to Japan representing not just Sydney, but also Australia and Oceania," said Sydney FC Chief Executive Tim Parker, "and to be taking with us the talents of Kazu who has joined us for this period. We are looking forward to his presence having a significant impact to our profile in Japan as well as our performance on the pitch."
Littbarski, the softly spoken Sydney coach, is similarly well regarded in Japan having spent many years coaching in the J-League and, unsurprisingly, he is looking forward to returning to a country of which he has many happy memories.
Experienced midfield duo Steve Corica and Matthew Bingley also played in the J-League while David Zdrilic represented Australia at the FIFA Confederations Cup Korea/Japan 2001.
With first birthday celebrations not long gone, Sydney should be presented with plenty more smiling faces on their trip to Japan.