The global player movement that eventually secured the release of Victorian-based footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi was perhaps the most significant demonstration of the power of the player’s voice in Australian football.

For many, it was evidence of the power of the collective – when players believe in something – in Hakeem’s case, his rights as a fellow athlete and human – nothing is impossible.

While this was a clearly visible – and global – example the collective action of players in Australia is nothing new. For Simon Colosimo, a figure heavily embedded in the player movement, there was little surprise that so many leapt to a fellow player’s defence.

In fact, after 25 years of involvement with the PFA, Colosimo said that the campaign epitomised what the organisation has represented for half a century.

“What we saw the football community do for Hakeem, that is what the players do for each other when you are a part of the PFA. 

“That’s the unity – they get behind every single player no matter what the circumstance.

“This Hakeem matter brought everyone in – the whole country in and the world – but this is something that is unique to the players, and it always has been.”

Colosimo, a storied and celebrated Australian footballer, former Socceroo, Manchester City, Sydney FC and Melbourne Heart defender, was first exposed to the player movement when he commenced his career in the National Soccer League.

“For me, it started back in 1997, during my first taste of senior professional football at [NSL club] Carlton. It was a wonderful club and there were wonderful players, wonderful people.

“But when the club stopped paying the players and we went through a lot of turmoil, the PFA [intervened] and stood up to support the players. That was my first real exposure to the PFA.

“Seeing the impact that the situation was having on players – guys who had mortgages, families – the impact that it was going to have on them, that was what really drew me to the PFA and how it could help players.

“From that moment there were some older guys doing the right thing by the collective group, making these decisions supported by the PFA that I thought, that’s what I want to do.

“I had been a PFA member the whole time at Carlton, but that was the moment I formed a newfound connection with PFA.

Colosimo, the 26-time Socceroo later became the PFA’s longest ever serving President, having assumed the role from Alex Tobin in 2004.

During his time as President Simon played a key role in establishing the A-League’s and Matildas’ first Collective Bargaining Agreement, the introduction of Minimum Medical Standards for the A-League and countless other hugely important achievements for the players.

“We managed to do it without social media – you were picking the phone up, you were talking to players after you played against them, after a game. It was just by different means.

“It wasn’t as public then, the respect and support that each of us had for each another, but it was definitely there.”

A two-time Joe Marston Medalist, Colosimo made over 200 appearances in Australia’s National Competition. Following his retirement in 2014, Colosimo was appointed as the PFA Player Relations Executive.

“There has always been some unbelievable players on the Executive. As a young player I wanted to know what Frank Farina had achieved; I wanted to know the John Kosmina’s of the world. Who they are not only as footballers, but who they are as people.

“Later I got asked to sit on the Executive, I was asked to be President, the rest is sort of history. It has been a great honour and I always treated it as an honour.

“It was a big achievement to be on the executive and then to be elected president was a huge achievement. Just understanding what we were as an organisation, the nuances, and then coming to the end of playing I’ve only ever wanted to represent the players.

“I’m proud of knowing that the players were united and always have been united. You see it with the Matildas, the Socceroos, the A-League player and the overseas players.”

In February, Colosimo made the next step in his post playing career; he was invited to take up a role with FIFPro – the world footballers’ association – based in Amsterdam.

“My ambition post playing, and the time and hours spent on the Executive or as a delegate, and understanding what the PFA was about has been a great education.

“The global stuff is the next step. I’ve done it here in Australia, I’ll continue to do it. We bat well above our average here in Australia for the size of the football market, the PFA are a wonderful organisation. The opportunity to do it on the global level was one I couldn’t pass up.

“It gives me confidence that the success of previous Australians involved – guys like James Johnson, Brendan Schwab and Andrew Orsatti – the success they have on the global stage, their breeding ground and foundations were in Australia and they have taken those learnings global.”

With 25 years at the PFA, there’s no doubt Colosimo will take many of his learnings overseas with him too.