Former Brisbane Roar Captain and Marconi defender Chad Gibson goes 1v1 with the PFA to share his insights into the game. From hanging ups his boots, falling back in love with the game to picking up a camera the Local FC creator discusses this and much more.

Q. In 2005 you joined Brisbane Roar as their inaugural captain; what are you recollections of that first A-League season? 

CG: It was definitely a special time. There was a real feeling that this was the time for our game to finally come of age. To be honest, those years were a whirlwind for me, I don’t remember having a day off for 9 months in the first season. We all had duties to help our game grow in that really important year, and as the captain I probably had even more. I felt it was all of our responsibility to fly the flag not only for our clubs but for our code, for the past players of the NSL and for the young guys who I watch playing in the A-League today. To be an inaugural captain and part of that squad walking out to a packed Suncorp for the first time is something I’ll never forget.


Q. How did it compare to what you were used to in the NSL?

CG: The biggest difference was really about the way the A-League was transforming semi-professional footballers into full-time professional athletes. Along with full-time training came a new era of sports science that was unfamiliar to all of us. At Brisbane we had Tony Ganter as our Strength and Conditioning Coach and he was definitely next level.

It was the first time in my experience that the club would take on the responsibility to maximise their assets by really investing in the players: improving performance, strength, speed, mentality. Clubs in the A-League now had sports psychologists, nutritionists, video analysis and physios with in depth knowledge of modern sports science. Football had become more than just on the pitch.


Q. You would spend two season’s with the club before departing professional football; what were the reasons behind your decision?

CG: After the first two seasons of the A-League, I felt as though the football career I had had for over 10 years had taken its toll. Instead of just enjoying playing it had really become a job and that’s a difficult reality to accept when you’ve loved something all your life and dedicated your whole life to it.

It wasn’t making me happy at the time; it had lost its purity for me. Several factors contributed to this, including the fact that we were essentially part of the creation of a new business, so a lot was happening beyond those 90 minutes that had very little to do with football. As I mentioned, the first season I had so many media responsibilities and that’s really not me, it sapped a lot of my energy and left me feeling that I had no time to get to know my teammates or have them get to know me. I put a media ban on myself for the second season to give me that breathing room to just play football, but it felt as though the damage had been done, I was burnt out.

Another issue for me was that at the time football culture was not what it is today. Today footballers study, they go for coffee, they’re engaged with the world they live in. I was always that way, but was considered an outsider because it wasn’t the norm. I had also reached an age where I wanted to feel settled and I found myself psychologically preparing for the next stage in my life.

To be honest, if it weren’t for the weekly coffees I had with our sports psychologist, Jonah Oliver, I probably wouldn’t have made it through the second season. I went back to NSW State League to play for Blacktown with a great bunch of lads. We won a grand final, that I even scored in, and for me that was the most positive end to my professional football career. I wanted to leave feeling positive about the game I had loved for so long.


Q. What were those initial couple of years like for you, post professional football?

CG: They were tough. As much as you want to prepare for it, the truth is I had been playing football since I was 3 years old. When it’s taken away from you, you feel like you’ve lost your identity because that’s all people knew of you and all you really knew. After years of sharing so much time with teams, having the safety net of training everyday, you’re almost institutionalised. Being alone and without clear direction is so far removed from anything you’ve known before that – you’re told when to train, what to eat, where to be and when, what to do and how to do it. You dedicate your life to football then the moment you have to walk away, football abandons you.

Socrates even said: “Nobody abandons football, football abandons us.” I am not someone who sits around and wallows though, so I went straight to work and kept myself busy. My journey has been pretty organic since then and the tough times led me to the next step, which was developing a My Career program which I presented to every club in the League. It delved into issues of mental health during and after football, professional networking and transitioning into life after football. I was very candid about my own experience and it was the scariest but most rewarding thing I have ever done. I felt like I had made a difference in players’ lives because finally someone had verbalised what we actually all feel but don’t say.


Q. Eventually you would embark on creating what has been hugely successful – Local FC – how did this come about? And can you tell me about it?

CG: At the time nothing existed that was a full representation of the way I saw the game. There were no websites the explored football culture across all fields: the 90 minutes, design, fashion, music, product, people’s stories. Local FC was born in 2011 to showcase football the way I see it, and with the combination of my history in and knowledge of football along with my creative skills I knew that Local FC would be something new. I realised the perspective I always had always on football was valuable and resonated with people, especially a new generation of footballers.

My wife and friends then and today weren’t involved in football, they were designers, architects, musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, so I was being inspired by fields outside of sport. I picked up a camera and discovered a way to really communicate what I was seeing and four years later Local FC has grown into something with an international following of people from Australia and abroad who really connect with my representation of the beautiful game.

Local FC is about football advocacy, we share positive stories, we offer a new perspective sports photography, interview players and people contributing to our game in a way that I hope is insightful and real to our audience. Over the past four years Local FC has created numerous campaigns, held an exhibition, two Local FC Cups for the creative community, printed two publications, sold ten series of limited edition merchandise and held Australia’s first football film festival. We’re excited about new ways of connecting with our supporters so these events are really important to us.


Q. Through social media #changingthegame often is tagged in your posts; what are you looking to change?

CG: #changingthegame was one of the very first hashtags that I used for Local FC and has stuck because we still believe in it. I wanted to make a bigger difference in football with Local FC than when I played. We want to contribute to changing the way football is viewed, especially in Australia, highlighting the way that it can transcend boundaries of sport into other cultural disciplines – design, art, community, education.


We’d like to see change on every level, so we offer honesty and integrity which we know is something our game is lacking internationally. I want to contribute to creating a league filled with footballers still in love with football, playing passionately. I want to help them remember why they began playing in the first place and not take the game for granted. We want to offer our audience insights they otherwise wouldn’t have, to connect them to football and footballers in new ways.


The culmination of these four years of the Local FC mission came recently when we collaborated with Nike to create MMXV. This is a Local FC photography book to commemorate the Socceroos’ first major trophy win with the Asian Cup, 2015. MMXV is a physical representation of how we want to change the game – it is immaculately put together, using the finest stocks and details, filled with my football photography, intimate interviews with present and past Socceroos and Ange, illustrations and design by my wife and business partner, Cecilia. It represents history and is a thank you to the game I love.


There were only 50 created and I had the opportunity to present the first 23 to the squad in Germany. That was significant for Local FC too, because of our commitment to respecting our past. The Socceroos’ return in 2015 to Germany as Asian Champions as invited guests of the current World Champions emphasised how far we had come since the Socceroos played in their first World Cup in 1974 in the same country.


Q. You also often remark that you love the game more than ever, how has Local FC enabled you to get to this point?

CG: Local FC has allowed me to be me in a football environment. I don’t water it down, it’s just me on a page. At times it gets emotional, maybe a little abstract for some, but it’s genuine and honest. Earning people’s respect and love for what I do and the way I present football is extremely rewarding, but I love Local FC simply because it’s a true expression of football.


I love the way that Local FC has connected me to audiences around the world, making me feel like a local wherever I am. For instance, last year I was in Paris going for a run and was stopped by a French guy on a bicycle saying: “Hey! You’re Local FC!” I am more aware than ever of all of the ways that football connects us and enriches our lives – Local FC helped me find that. I’ve never been so in love with football, whether it be playing with my dad for my junior club again, having pick-up games with my mates, watching matches as a fan, photographing my first love; football consumes my life in the best way possible.



Q. Do you think the game has embraced what people like yourself and countless other former players have to offer?

CG: I don’t think so. I think the organisations that govern football have a tendency to play it safe, stick to what they know and hope for the best. They speak one language, so many voices that could be contributing to our game get overlooked if they don’t speak the same way as them. Basically there’s a culture of conformity in football, which leads to the idea that if you think differently, you’re wrong. This used to be the case on all levels of football, but today I believe that culture has changed amongst the players and my peers. It’s now about having that new attitude infiltrate the bureaucracies. I think we’re part of a generation that truly wants to make a difference and has the game’s best interests at heart.


Q. Do you believe this is important if the game is to move forward?

CG: Mos’ def. I believe that past players offer a unique insight into the shortcomings of the way football is run, because they’re so familiar with the internal workings of the game as well as being really connected to their own communities. We tend to be more aware of issues such as the high cost of registration fees, which make football inaccessible to a large proportion of our population. After ten years we can look at Melbourne Victory as a benchmark for what an A-League club could and should be, however within the same league we have clubs having to be rescued by the FFA and are essentially no better off than teams were in the NSL.


I think it’s easy for the big guys to think they’re the only ones contributing to how football is developing in Australia. I would argue that more progress is being made by individuals outside of the establishment, activating communities through football. A good example is Roddy Vargas who I’ve gotten to know since I finished playing. He runs a football program with the Big Issue in prisons, which is an incredibly positive use of our skills. He’s making a huge impact on the way the community perceives football and how our game can give back.


Q. Your work with Local FC has showcased many of the PFA’s Socceroos, Matildas and A-League members; how committed do you think this current generation is to improving the game?

CG: I’m passionate about highlighting these people’s stories precisely for that reason. I believe in them, I believe in the way they’re contributing to our game and I think we now see ourselves as a distinct community that share a common vision to #changethegame. I’m proud that Local FC has become a place for these players to take off the superhero suit and without fear of manipulation or judgement, express their true selves.


Q. Finally, the game has experienced significant success over the last decade, what are the keys of going to the next level?

CG: I think my answer has to go back to the Local FC philosophy of moving the game forward while knowing and respecting your past. There’s the old adage: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” There’s a lot we and our organisations can learn by looking back, even beyond the ten years of the league. It’s important to ask questions like, why is Melbourne Victory where it is today in comparison to other teams who face financial distress? As well as that, it’s so important to learn from the world beyond football, taking lessons from successful organisations and communities from different disciplines around the world.


It’s time to stop treating other codes as enemies, as though we’re trying to poach their supporters. For me, it’s not about being the best code in this country, it’s about creating a genuine and passionate community of true football supporters that create a football culture that rivals any other in the world. We should be asking where we sit as a world football league rather than whether we have the highest television ratings locally.


One thing that would make a huge difference is having one common goal as a football family.



Each week the PFA will go 1v1 with the current or former player to gain insight into the lives of footballers on and off the pitch.