World Cup hero Mathew Leckie hopes the chaotic fallout to the A-League’s decision to sell the grand final to the NSW government doesn’t take the gloss off the Socceroos’ performance in Qatar.
Leckie, who plays for ladder-leaders Melbourne City, was bombarded with questions on Tuesday as backlash over the deal, which will see the next three A-League grand finals in Sydney, reached fever-point and fans threatened to stage a walkout at Saturday’s derby with Melbourne Victory.
As Victory chairman Anthony Di Pietro quit his role on the Australian Professional League’s board as a direct result of the decision, and reigning premiers Western United declared they didn’t get a say and weren’t supportive of the move, Leckie was loathed to voice an opinion.
Still basking in the glow of the Socceroos’ efforts to make the final 16 at the World Cup Leckie, who scored the lone goal in Australia’s crucial pool match win over Denmark, said it wasn’t up to the players to decide where the grand final should be played.
“My personal reaction was, there wasn’t one, it is what it is. It’s not in our control,” he said.
“I understand the frustration for the fans but it’s out of our control really and as players is not something we should be focusing on. We have a long season ahead, and first foremost we need to get ourselves in a position to be even talking about it.
“We want to be in that equation to be playing in the final, so we’ll work hard to put ourselves in a position to make a grand final, but there’s no guarantees, so we are going to focus on the football.
“I think our role is to play football and achieve things on the field, not the off-field stuff.”
Leckie was hopeful the fallout didn’t backfire amid efforts to seize on the Socceroos’ World Cup success and “grow the game”.
“I don’t think so, everyone has their own opinion on the situation. I know people are upset now, which is completely understandable,” he said.
“But I’m hoping, which as I said when we first landed back in Australia, our achievements over in Qatar inspire young kids to want to have a career in football and grow the fame. Fans grow football.”
But those very same fans are the ones who have threatened to walkout on Saturday’s blockbuster A-League derby between Leckie’s Melbourne City and Victory.
Leckie’s Socceroo teammate, Marco Tilio, said full stands “increase our performance” and urged anytone thinking about a walkout to stay and support the players, who didn’t make the decision about the grand final moves.
“The fans are frustrated … we want them there,” he said.
“We can only focus on what we can and the most important thing in fans in the stadium and that increases our performance.
“For me personally, I don’t think being a young player I need to get involved in these decisions.
“It’s out of our control. There’s not much we can do about it as players.”
Originally published as World Cup hero Mathew Leckie stays out of grand final controversy