Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer made history on Friday night by becoming the first Australian to reach a hundred caps for his country. Schwarzer, 39, made his international debut eighteen years ago, and his period as first choice goalkeeper has seen over a spell in which Australia has played in two successive World Cups – and he will be hoping that folliwubg World Cup qualifiers that just kicked they have made it three. His dedication and achievement in football lead to Schwarzer being a recipient of Order of Australia.
Here is Schwarzer’s interview with FIFA about the occasion:
FIFA.com: Mark, congratulations on making it into the century club. How does it make you feel?
Mark Schwarzer: It’s a great honour and a real milestone for me. I tried not to think about it too much and I reckon I’ll feel prouder of it when I look back later.
My teammates and I have one objective, which is to reach the World Cup finals, and we have achieved any number of impressive things along the way. The satisfaction and pride will come later.
Your first team debut was in a FIFA World Cup qualifier back in 1993. Did you ever imagine that you would come so far and achieve so much?
I never dreamed of getting this far. Qualifying for Germany 2006 was a massive achievement, especially because it came after a 32-year absence. I never gave a thought to anything beyond that, but getting knocked out in the Round of 16 gave me a real desire to fill that gap, which drove me to keep playing and make it to another World Cup.
As far as I was concerned South Africa was to be my last World Cup but then I just kept going. After 75 international appearances I began to think I might just make it to my century, and that’s what happened. But my main goal was always to qualify for the finals in Brazil and nothing’s changed.
You’ve had a slow start with only two points from your first couple of games, qualifying for Brazil 2014 is looking tough.
The first game was very difficult given the conditions we faced in Oman in June. Then we had to take a trip home, which lasted 22 or 23 hours, arriving just three days before our game against Japan, who had got there before us. It was hard, but I reckon we played well.
Australia have appeared at two Asian Cup finals, but were knocked out twice at the hands of Japan. Are they a particularly tough team to beat?
At the moment in the Asian Cup series, we’ve failed to beat Japan. But when you look to World Cup qualifiers, the roles have been reversed. We have beaten them in the World Cup qualifiers and in the World Cup as well. I think I’m happy with that result, with that scenario at the moment. Hopefully we can finish in the top two and qualify for the World Cup.
Which of the teams in your group pose the biggest threat to your chances of qualification?
All of the sides in Group B are a threat. They’ve all earned their right to be there. We cannot take any of them lightly, especially when we’re playing them on their home soil.
Oman have proved how tricky they can be at home and I am certain that Jordan will put on a good performance when we face them next week, though I’m sure we’ll play well and get the result we want. The same goes for Iraq. We’ve played them on a number of occasions and they have never failed to be strong.
We never take anyone lightly and we know that every game is difficult. These matches are qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup and the other teams want to go through just as badly as we do.
Just how important is competing in the FIFA World Cup to you and the rest of the Australian team?
It’s vital in order to ensure that the game in Australia keeps moving forward. Qualifying for a World Cup attracts a lot of benefits: sponsorship, financial support, even interest in the game. It motivates people inAustralia to play more football, to want to make it into the national side or just to get involved in whatever way they can.
It’s also important that as a side we are well prepared as we can be. We are probably the most famous team in Australia, the nation’s favourites if you like. We must keep playing well and keep winning, because Australians love winning, they demand it. We have to give it to them.
Australia will be hosting the Asian Cup in 2015, are you looking forward for this tournament and do you want to take part in it?
I haven’t been thinking that far ahead, all my focus is 2014, though I am aware of Australia hosting the Asian Cup. It’s a tremendous tournament for Australia to host and I’m absolutely positive that Australia will put on a fantastic show for the Asian Cup. We’ll see in what capacity I’m involved if I’m involved at all.
Incidentally, Schwarzer is 7th in the all-time Premier League appearances table.