As a kid, Mathew Leckie wanted to play Australian Rules football.
Aged 11, he switched schools in Melbourne’s inner west and joined his mates playing soccer.
Aged 15, he watched the Socceroos at the 2006 World Cup and that was it, and it was soccer.
Aged 31 now, Leckie hopes kids watching him and his Socceroos teammates at the World Cup have similar light bulb moments.
“You watch the telly and you see the atmosphere,” Leckie told reporters.
“How big the World Cup is could be just one of those things that clicks in their heads and says ‘I want to be a footballer rather than an AFL player’.
“The World Cup and the Socceroos really bring the nation together.
“When I was younger growing up in an AFL environment with my family, one thing that did bring my family to follow football was the national team and the World Cup.”
Leckie said the current batch of Socceroos were motivated by emulating the feats of their 2006 predecessors, the only Australian team to reach the knockout stages at a World Cup.
“When the Socceroos got out of the group in ’06, I was a proud fan,” he said.
“And now we have the opportunity to be players and do that.
“We can create something special, as the ’06 team did.
“But in saying that, the other day when we got our result and won (against Tunisia), the first thing that was said was we haven’t really done anything because there’s still another game to go.
“And without another result it will mean nothing.”
(Australian Associated Press)