Sport: Soccer - Paul Wade OAM - Part 2


Interviewee: Paul Wade, OAM, born 1962

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,

            for The Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 2 Feb 2010

Transcription: Glenys Murray, Feb 2010


Did you ever get more money then?

The high profile players walked in and said “we wouldn’t get out of bed for this sort of money pull your finger out and give us this much”. It was five thousand dollars per game, so we’ve gone from three hundred to five thousand. All because the high profile more influential players came back and demanded it. I look back and go they took me for a ride.

So it’s five thousand per player is it?

Yeah five thousand per player.

That must have stimulated them a bit?

Yeah that was in 1993, it was a lot of money. Guys in other sports were earning more money than us. But for us it was a lot of money. I was still working part time, I was still a draftsman working eight hours a day, five days a week.

Did you have any mentors at the time, I mean did you look at other captains and try to emulate what they were doing?

I don’t think I had another captain. I used to be inspired by people’s qualities. Their ability to pass and move and their visions of play passes. I was most influenced by a guy in 1986 which is when I became a Socceroo 1986-1996. He played such a simple way. It was direct, it was fast and furious and it was aggressive. It was everything that I could do and I still use that philosophy. I’ve changed a couple of things but my philosophy is let’s be positive in everything we do. Massive impact as a player and now as a coach.

Now what are some of the pitfalls of being a captain? What are some of the things you mustn’t do?

Get too big headed. Don’t put yourself above everybody else. Be careful what you say. It’s no wonder that players in England say nothing to the media other than “well the ball is round and tomorrow we could either win lose or draw”. They know that they’re looking for a line that is going to sell newspapers.

You were a draftsman for thirteen years and you were still playing football, when did you actually stop being a draftsmen?

When I became the captain of the Socceroos. I was asked if I wanted a development role in the old Victorian Soccer Federation. I was still in Melbourne in those days. That was a big decision for me as well. I was a draftsman of projects it’s not as if I was a trainee draftsman. I was earning a comfortable living, everything was set. I had a mortgage to pay so it was comfortable. To take a step like this into an area I had never been didn’t know if I was good enough was a big step. Thank goodness I did now because I still haven’t got a real job. It was a big chance that I took and I love every minute of it. I have the best job in the world coaching kids how to play football.

Now looking back at your days as a Socceroo player and captain how do you think your experience differed to professional sports people these days?

We were part time we were not getting a lot of money. If journalist wanted an interview with us they came to us as individuals. There was no saying to the media “hey if you want to talk to Paul Wade you’ve got to be at that press conference and that’s the only grabs you’re going to get”. Journalists used to walk into the foyer of hotels and say “hey Paul can I have a quick interview” and “wow this is publicity for the Socceroos dead right you can”. Nowadays they are a protected species. They earn an absolute fortune they still love playing for their country and it will always be that way but in a different culture. You can’t touch them now.

So how far into your playing career did you start thinking of life after soccer?

When my body started to collapse. My hip was giving me so much grief. Never let them know you’re hurt, that was my first rule. I was hard working and hard working is being mentally tough. To go through pain barriers and to go through pain barriers you hid injuries because you knew you were coming to the end. The media realise, they can see when you’re not as quick and not as aggressive any more. I was getting acupuncture at half time from the club that I was playing for. I was in Canberra now and yeah I just did it for another two years just living with the pain. Ten years after I retired I had my hip removed because of the arthritis. I was willing to go through that pain and that’s when I started to think I’m losing it now and I don’t like the way they’re talking about me in the media. I had been doing a lot of interviews and I did have a good relationship with Channel 7 at that time. So it came about that I made the decision to retire.

So what was life like after you retired from soccer?

I think it was… again another host said to me “enjoy your retirement”. I thought enjoy my retirement a) I haven’t got a job b) we don’t earn any money. Enjoy my retirement no this is where the hard work starts. I spent a long time in the media doing what I love talking about football and I’m still doing it. I had that job as a development coach with the old Victorian Soccer Federation so I had that to fall back on as well. So it just evolved like that. Coaching kids, coaching adults but not on a grand scale. I didn’t need the pressure of people judging me all the time. I wanted to have fun. Working in the media, I was working on Channel 7’s pay TV C7sport. We crashed and burned eventually but I was hosting a show. I was doing a preview and a review show as well. Yeah maybe that commentator was right I am enjoying life after football.

Paul Wade coaching children

So tell me something about your connection with The Hills Shire and that area?

I coach kids. I coach them all over Sydney. I coach them in The Hills and there’s varying degrees of love of the game. I know kids in The Hills love football. Maybe because their Mums want them in that safer sport I’m not saying that it’s really safe but it is a safer sport might be the reason. But no matter what school I go into they’re happy to get out there and have fun. My motto has always been maximum fun maximum participation. So if you can get kids for forty five minutes in year 4, 5, 6 even preps give them a fast, furious, fun time with a football you’ve done your job. You can’t make them into Socceroos or whatever if they realise exercise is fun which is what the whole programme is about and football is a part of that. Well eh I’ve got a suntan because I was out there in the sunshine with my hat on obviously and my sunscreen and the kids have had a great time. I’m still doing it today in The Hills.

Where do you live now?

In Dural well I am on acreage but don’t tell anyone I’m on a tenth of an acre that’s my secret. Because everybody says “oh you’ve got horses” “no I haven’t got horses, but I’m on acreage”. Remember I was getting three hundred dollars a week but I don’t tell them that. I’m just happy to do what I do and I do it in one of the best most livable parts of Sydney.

When you’re teaching kids to play soccer what do you do when you see a very talented player?

I smile a lot and think he’s got it at his feet but I wonder if he’s got it in his heart and his head. I never think that if I’m coaching a kid and he’s got talent that he’s got to become a Socceroo. A lot of the kids I coach are fifteen and younger and some of them make it. There are five hundred thousand registered soccer players in Australia and there’s eleven that take the park with the green and gold shirt on. So when I coach kids I appreciate their skills. I compliment them on their skills like everybody else but I treat the session as fun. It it’s not fun they’re going to quit and if they quit they’re never going to become a Socceroo. They’re going to become a Socceroo on their own not because of anything I’ve done. I can’t make them passionate about the game. I can’t make them mentally tough and clever about seeing the whole game and the situations in it. What I can do is provide them with basic skills and a heap of fun. Oh one thing I do, do I make all the kids that I coach promise me that when they make it they owe me two tickets to every game they play. I haven’t got one free ticket yet so my coaching can’t be that good can it? Tell you what I’ve got a lot of kids out there who have to think about it.

Does the parents' influence on the children play any part in how they become as players?

I take this not seriously but I tell you what I’d line a lot of parents up and shoot the lot of them. It’s an absolute disgrace, it really is. Dare I say it but some of it is in The Hills. Let’s not kid ourselves here The Hills is a beautiful place to live but we all have the same issues that they have everywhere else. Some of those issues are that desire for success and if desire for success can come through your kids then look out, get out of the way. I hate that, I hate it because they forget they’re 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14. It’s not about smiling anymore. “Why didn’t you pass that from A to B, why”? Having a go at referees, don’t start me on that. I tell you what... I could go on here... I won’t. but if I see anybody having a go at referees I might use those heading skills in a violent way.

 CBA Team 2009

Would you have liked your daughters to become professional sports people?

I’ve always taken them to their sports. Having three girls one of them plays soccer and they all play basketball and they all play netball. They all dance and I’ve always taken them, cause Mum and Dad did it, to their sporting events. But they make the decision.

Are there any community activities that you’ve been involved with apart from soccer?

I’m happy to do fund raisers because I’m lucky to do what I do. I go out to clubs and do their presentation days which is good. At my age and having played a long time ago you don’t get any attention anymore. So here’s me having to stand in front of all these kids and give them a medal. “Well done sonny”. I do things like that, I enjoy that it’s…what else do I do? I’ve done a few speaking gigs for different councils. Look I do have many but I don’t put it up there and go “wow guess what I do?” At the end of the day I’m just not interested.

So you had a terrific career in soccer. What would you say that soccer’s given you that you’d like to pass on? What sort of qualities or experiences?

Don’t worry just grab whatever is happening now. If it’s going bad hate it and try and change it but don’t worry to the point where it stops you chasing your goal. Always smile. Imagine this is what I always think, if I died tonight what would they say about me at my funeral tomorrow. Would they say I loved life, would they say I was a miserable so and so? How many would turn up, that’s another one and you just think to yourself well why don’t I live that life now. Having had epilepsy and come and make decisions about my life I’m in a good position to say that, that’s probably not a bad thing. Smile and think about what they’d say about you at your funeral.

How did you actually find out that you do have epilepsy?

I was standing there in front of a physiotherapist right before we played that game against Argentina. I’d hurt my ankle and I’m standing there and from all reports my eyes rolled in the back of my head and I almost fell over. The physio thought now that is a serious problem. The short story is he told the team doctor, he told me to go and see a neurologist when we go back to Australia which I didn’t. I mean if it’s not bleeding there’s nothing wrong with you. Typical male attitude, eventually after they’d dragged me by the scruff of my neck into a neurologist and did all these tests. Identified a scratch on my front temporal lobe and said “you have epilepsy”. I said “what I’m retarded”? You just don’t know what epilepsy is. So first thing I did don’t tell anyone, keep it tom yourself because it’s embarrassing. I lived like that for years and years and seizures got worse and worse. They put me on medication and the medication wasn’t working. So that’s how I found out I had epilepsy I collapsed right in front of the physio.

What were your worst fears about having epilepsy?

I think initially is that everybody else would eventually know about it. I was commentating at that stage, partly commentating, partly playing. I could get dropped from the national team. I might lose my job working on the television so I wasn’t telling anybody. So I lived with that secret for a few years.

Didn’t you actually have one on air?

I did, and you couldn’t pick a worse day. It was live on Channel 7 the Socceroos so if anybody’s going to be watching they might be watching that one. If it was a little game in the NSL or the A League, no, ten or fifteen people might care. But this is… you couldn’t see me I was beside the camera asking the questions so all you could see was the guy in front of me.

So you had epilepsy all your life is that right? Right from the very beginning but you didn’t know?

No wouldn’t have had a clue. My Mum says she remembers the tantrums or what she thought were tantrums. I remember before going into an exam thinking “whoa this is a strange feeling”. I just thought as I say it was the way my body was handling pressure. I wonder if I had played for the national team, I wonder if I’d have become a draftsman if I knew I had epilepsy. Would I make an excuse for not being picked for the national team until I was twenty three.

 Paul Wade, Sky News 2009

So how did you recover psychologically? What were the turning points?

I decided that I’d have an operation because the operation was offered to me. I decided that I couldn’t live with having five seizures a day which is what I was having. I was lucky some of the kids were having fifty I was having five. It affects your whole family because I’ve got to be taken to those training sessions by somebody. I have to be taken to games and it impacts on so many people other than just you and when you have your seizure. When they offered me the operation I thought bring it on, bring it on. After a lot of debates with my wife and my family it was just like yeah we can’t stand living like this. There were obviously some risks, a two percent chance of death, paralysis, blindness. So it wasn’t a decision you take easily. The overriding factor was life was becoming unbearable. They said we’re ninety nine percent sure that we can get this because it’s a specific mark on your front temporal lobe. That stops the electricity flowing round your brain, it short circuits and that’s where you lose it. So I had an operation and had part of my brain removed the size of two match boxes. Incredible what they can do now. People having a go at hospitals for lots of different reason well I’ll tell you what. The advancements in medication and surgery are unbelievable. I’m sitting here talking to you or I could have been having five seizures a day and been a vegetable.

So you don’t have any more seizures now?

No, no more seizures I did go through three operations, two that I probably didn’t need to. I walked out of the brain operation the first one after ten days but unfortunately for me that scar got infected. Maybe that’s why it got infected it just hadn’t closed up yet. Everyone’s opinion was that it had. I needed a second operation because the bone got infected. They had to take the bone out before golden staph. took over. So the second operation was to take part of my skull out. The third operation was to put a titanium plate over the top of that.

You have been awarded quite an important honour - the Order of Australia - for your work in soccer. Tell me how do you feel about that?

Honoured, shocked because somebody’s got to nominate you. So somebody has seen me do something and thinks you should be congratulated for. It said on the certificate that it was for services to soccer and the anti smoking campaign. I hate smoking. I hate a few things. People, who have a go at referees, people who put pressure on their kids and smoking.

So what are some of the main lessons that you have learnt in your life?

Don’t take anything for granted. These are probably little clichés. I tell kids “you know teachers they’re the most valuable thing you’ve got”. By saying that to teachers I can relate that to my life and all the others. There are certain valuable things in your life that if you take on board. You don’t have to like it, but if you learn from it. It will make life a little bit further down the track so much easier. Don’t run away from your problems and smile. Make them wonder why.

Is there anything else that you want to talk about, that you want to put on record?

Have respect for The Hills. This is all about The Hills I’d love to see The Hills stay the way it is. I think it’s not going to. It will be subdivided, it will be an inner suburb. I’m talking way down the track but look after it. If you take your dog for a walk in the park and he does his business pick it up. If you see some rubbish in the park when you’re walking your dog just pick it up. Keep it beautiful cause we are very, very lucky to be where we are. You don’t know if you’re going to get kicked out or whether you’re going to leave because your body fails.