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Australian football being shown greater respect

It’s a sign of the growing respect and esteem in which the standard of Australian football is held that leading European clubs are willing to travel here as part of their pre-season preparations.

For several years now, English Premier League teams have visited Australia ahead of the new domestic season, but this year it seems to have gone up a level.

In addition to having both Liverpool and Manchester City hoping to click with new signings in their squads, the International Champions Cup series is also being partly held in Australia.

It’s true that the commercial and marketing benefits of playing in Australia are a major pull for European clubs, especially when they know they have so many fans in the country.

Liverpool, City and Real Madrid, for instance, are hugely popular around the world, and playing in Australia allows their fanbase here to get a ‘live’ look at them in action, especially when the International Champions Cup games are being staged at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with the capacity for around 100,000 spectators to attend. Impatient fans waiting for the new season to start can entertain themselves with some of the best mobile pokies to play but for the clubs it’s not just about entertainment and boosting their finances with high-profile games in Australia.

It’s a combination of helping to raise the standard of the game here and also recognition of how that standard has improved in the past few years.

Liverpool have played the Brisbane Roar and Adelaide United as part of their tour of Asia and Australia and, in each match, they have been given a proper test. Liverpool beat Brisbane 2-1 and then needed goals from James Milner and Danny Ings in the latter part of the second half to beat Adelaide 2-0. Liverpool may have been the better team, and clearly have the better players, but Adelaide were able to show discipline and an ability to compete.

Certainly, Liverpool are using these games as a chance to build up their fitness ahead of the Premier League season starting, but it has to be pointed out that they’re not playing Brisbane or Adelaide in the middle of the A-League season either. It’s three months since the regular A-League season finished, so the likes of Liverpool and City are not coming up against match-fit opponents. That’s why it’s even more of a positive for Australian football that these friendly games have not produced one-sided scorelines.

If you throw in Manchester City’s partnership with Melbourne City FC, it’s a sure-fire sign that Australian football is no longer being treated like a poor relation by the sport’s elite.

The years to come look very positive for Australian football and the more major clubs who come to visit the country, the better.

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