Graham Arnold has laid out his vision for Australian men's football over the next World Cup cycle, including by calling on the government to increase high-performance funding and create a "home Of football" complex that rivals the best facilities in the world.
In a media conference on Monday following his reappointment as head coach of the Socceroos, Arnold revealed that as part of contract negotiations with Football Australia, he sought to have his role broadened so he had a greater influence across the sport and could "leave a legacy" beyond his tenure, particularly in the area of youth development.
"I had interest from overseas but I want to help Australia and help Australian kids," Arnold said.
"I took the Olyroos (under-23s team) on the last campaign to help Australian kids. And as I said to [FA CEO James Johnson] in Qatar, if I did consider staying on — and I want to stay on — it's not just about the Socceroos.
"I want to help the pathways. I want to help get the Socceroos a home.
"It's crazy to think that the Socceroos don't get any high-performance funding from the government.
"The Socceroos don't have a home. How can you have a football culture if you don't have a home?
"Of all the years I've been around … the organisation is always here or there, always being moved around.
"We don't have a home. I said to [Johnson] and the board that if I did stay on, it's something that I want to do: to leave a legacy for men's football, but also to help the kids."
Arnold fended off interest from clubs in Europe and the Middle East after he led Australia to their best-ever World Cup finish of 11th, winning two group games for the first time before being knocked out by winners Argentina.
But it was not just the Socceroos' impressive performances in Qatar, nor the belief this group was yet to reach their full potential that inspired Arnold's decision to renew his tenure until the end of the 2026 men's World Cup.
Most of all, it was the vision of tens of thousands of fans back home, gathering at live sites around the country, that re-lit his spark.
"What inspired me most was seeing those fan sites, seeing how the Socceroos reunited the nation, and seeing how many people love Australian football," he said.
"Since I've been home, everywhere I go, everyone has a story about where they were for the game against Tunisia. They tell me stories about getting up at 4am in the morning to watch.
The rest of the world don't understand. They saw those fan sites but they don't realise the timing of it.
"Just to see that was something that's driven me even more to help the game as much as I can over the next three and a half years, and not just with the Socceroos."
As head coach, the 59-year-old will have a broader remit which includes closer involvement with Australia's youth teams, lobbying state and federal governments for infrastructure and high-performance funding, and mentoring and supporting coaches who are emerging through the national team set-up, including Tony Vidmar (U-23s), Trevor Morgan (U-20s) and Brad Maloney (U-17s).
Meanwhile, assistant coach Rene Meulensteen will remain at Arnold's side for the next cycle, spending much of his time abroad in Europe scouting young and emerging players.
He will be keeping a particularly close eye on players with dual Australian citizenship, working with Vidmar to host a talent-identification camp in Italy in March.
"Part of my role is to mentor and help those three coaches," Arnold said.
"It's so crucial that we get that right — the planning and preparation for the junior national teams — because the Socceroos don't happen just out of the blue. The ingredients need to be there, the preparation needs to be perfect.
"To see those young kids in the under-23s qualify for the Olympics next year … it's not another normal cycle. It's a three-and-a-half-year cycle, and with a lot more teams.
"Instead of playing 20 games, we're playing 16 with direct qualification, so it's important that the kids are given that opportunity to come through."
While Australia punches above its weight on the international stage in both the men's and women's space, Arnold is keenly aware it is falling behind the rest of the world in the area of football-specific infrastructure: stadiums, training pitches, academies, museums, and administrative buildings.
Despite having the largest participation base of any team sport in the country, football receives a fraction of what smaller sports receive in federal government funding, with much of it linked to Olympic medal chances.
Former Socceroos such as Mark Schwarzer have been openly critical of football's "funding gap", which saw the game receive less investment last year than athletics, basketball, cycling, field hockey, sailing, and swimming according to the 2021-22 Australian Sports Commission report.
As part of his larger call for government funding, Arnold said he wants to see a "home Of football" complex developed for the national teams, akin to St Georges' Park in England or France's Clairefontaine academy.
"A home of football is crucial," Arnold said.
"That's] something that we've missed out on that every other sport [has]. NRL club teams get funding and fantastic training facilities, AFL clubs have fantastic training facilities.
"We're a national team, we play worldwide, and we've got nothing. We've got nowhere to go. We don't have a museum.
"If we had a perfect facility that they would help us with, it could be training grounds to run the pathways, it'd be a great little stadium that we could play in, and we can have a museum to respect all those players like the Harry Kewells and Timmy Cahills and Johnny Warrens who have done so much for Australian football that will not be forgotten.
"But we need help from the government because we've been underfunded for years. It's time that they stepped up."
And while all of this focus is off the field, Arnold's plans for what he wants to see on the field are clearer.
First, win the men's Asian Cup, which is expected to take place in Qatar early next year after being pushed back due to the Women's World Cup on home soil this year.
Second, qualify for the 2026 World Cup directly, rather than through another inter-continental play-off route, in addition to helping the youth teams qualify for their respective junior World Cups.
And finally, go further than the team did in Qatar, and potentially further than any senior national team has ever done at the sport's biggest tournament.
But, in Arnold's words, it's "one step at a time", starting with the March international window, where it is expected the Socceroos will return home to play two friendlies in front of the fans they inspired just over two months ago.
"If anything, I'd like these games to be more of a celebration for the boys, for what they did at the World Cup, and to thank the Australian public for their support," Arnold said.
"There are some players that aren't playing at the moment, or are injured, who probably won't be able to come, but it's all about Day One again, meaning getting the program started.
"This first camp is more about rewarding the players who couldn't come back after the World Cup … to give them the opportunity to say 'thank you' to the fans, and also for the fans to say 'thank you' for the commitment and effort of the campaign."