http://nz.sports.yahoo.com/football/news/article/-/8732439/role-model-schwarzer-just-rolls-on-and-on/?Role model Schwarzer just rolls on and on
Mark Schwarzer's Socceroos teammates could go on for hours talking up the veteran goalkeeper's impact on Australian football but coach Holger Osieck needs only a few seconds to sum up his admiration.
"You use the term 'role model', well he is the incarnation of the role model," the German says.
"That is all I can say. I think that includes everything."
When Schwarzer steps out for the Asian Cup final against Japan on Saturday night (11pm WA time) for his 88th international appearance he will solidify his status as a legend of Australian football by surpassing Alex Tobin's caps record in full internationals.
The humble Fulham shot-stopper describes the achievement as an honour "beyond belief".
But you get a sense his teammates are not surprised to see Schwarzer is still at the top of is game and arguably fitter than ever at the ripe old age of 38 in an international career spanning close to 18 years.
Schwarzer is without doubt one of Australia's most gifted glovemen but it is his commitment, work ethic and discipline that are the driving force behind his longevity.
In Qatar, Schwarzer looks meaner and leaner than ever.
He embarked on an intense personal training program six months out from last year's World Cup and carried it on to the point where he's now never felt fitter.
With an attention to detail that extends right down to a strict dietary program, the words "ultimate professional" come up several times in conversations with his teammates.
Or, as a cheeky Luke Wilkshire puts it, he's "52 going on 22".
"I think he's probably the fittest I've ever seen him," Wilkshire said.
"I've played with him for a long time and he's in good condition for an old fella.
"He's like the grandfather of the team, he's been around forever and he's probably still going to be around forever.
"You always know what you're going to get from him.
"He's the ultimate professional and it's the only way he's got to where he is and to still be around like he is now and at the level he is now, is a great example to set for all young people."
None are more pleased to see Schwarzer break Tobin's record than the senior teammates who have been with him through some of the great moments in Australian football.
Tim Cahill rates Schwarzer as one of Australia's greatest ever players and a huge influence on his career on and off the park.
Captain Lucas Neill is equally complimentary and can't see why the evergreen Schwarzer can't go on to reach a ton of caps.
"I am delighted that I can be playing with him," Neill said.
"He's earned every cap he's got so far and I imagine his target now will 100.
"I'm sure there are players you could argue over the years who deserved a lot of caps, but to hit triple figures ... there wouldn't be an Australian in my time that deserved that more than him."
Schwarzer earned his international breakthrough as a wide-eyed 20-year-old in a World Cup qualifier in Edmonton in 1993, coming on as a substitute after first-choice Robert Zabica was sent off after 17 minutes.
"It was surreal," Schwarzer said.
"I remember it vividly. Sitting on the bench next to Paul Wade ... we were counting flags in the stadium, how many Aussie flags there were in the stadium. There was about 27,000 people in the game, we were looking around, having a bit of a joke.
"I was as nervous as hell being a young guy there.
"Next minute, three-quarters of the bench stood up looked at me and went 'get up and get warm'.
"It was one of the games that just flew past me. We lost 2-1 unfortunately but Eddie Thomson thought enough of me that I was good enough to play in the next game."
It was in that return leg in Sydney where he really made his mark, saving two penalties to send Australia to the final phase of qualifying against Argentina.
Schwarzer labelled that a defining moment in his career and although it took him some time to fully establish himself as the No.1 keeper, he has never looked backed.
Schwarzer has had his fair share of dark moments, though.
He almost quit international football after feeling he was unfairly overlooked by Terry Venables for the World Cup qualifiers against Iran in 1997 before being coaxed back by Frank Farina.
But he considers the lowest point of his career the time he spent playing in Germany with Dynamo Dresden and Kaiserslautern from 1994-96, where he barely got a look in.
"I was heading towards being two and a half years in Germany and almost heading nowhere," he said.
"There were no opportunities for me. At training, every normal session with the team, I was playing on the field.
"There was many times I came home, I was in bits and I even considered coming back home to Australia, and starting afresh.
"It was until my wife (Paloma) said to me 'it all comes down to you, it all comes down to what you want to do and the belief in your own ability and whether you believe you're still good enough to play, whether you believe you're good enough to make it'.
"The bottom line for me was I still believed I was good enough.
"I just needed to find a manager who believed in me and gave me an opportunity."
That man was Chris Kamara, who signed Schwarzer to Bradford City, a move which led to him eventually joining Middlesbrough where he went on to make 367 appearances and flourish into one of the world's best goalkeepers.
Schwarzer has since gone on to become one of the game's most desired and respected figure and a pivotal part of the Socceroos' most successful generation, which qualified for back-to-back World Cups.
And it was the start of that journey that stands out to Schwarzer most as a career highlight, when his brilliant performance in a penalty shootout against Uruguay in 2005 helped Australia qualify for a first World Cup finals in 32 years.
"I remember it so vividly, the way the Australian public responded towards the Uruguay national anthem," Schwarzer said.
"On any other occasion I would have said that was not right, but on this occasion it was spot on. It was an amazing feeling.
"And the Australian anthem, the way it was sung, I've never experienced it ever before wearing a green and gold jersey."
Schwarzer is not expecting the same atmosphere when he takes the park against Japan at Khalifa Stadium in Doha, or anywhere near the 83,000 fans that packed ANZ Stadium that night in Sydney.
But he's excited about what lifting the trophy could mean for the game that has given him so much.
"Hopefully we can do Australia proud and hopefully we can win this for Australia and for football in Australia and also for future generations of kids in Australia, to give younger kids aspirations to succeed and go on and play for the Socceroos.
"Because take it from me, it's a massive part of my life."