Tuesday, August 28, 2007

To lose one captain may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

Danny Tiatto has been cited to appear in Sydney over a tackle early in Saturday night's game. This comes on top of the sending off of Craig Moore. And of Seo the week before. Further, there are reports (Fox commentators) that up to 7 Roar players where sent letters by the FFA after the 3 v 4 pre-season play-off against Central Coast warning them on their behaviour.

All this is a bad sign.

The Roar have paid a lot of money for Moore and Tiatto. People come to watch them. If the FFA is going to go further than what was considered a poor referring job in the fans eyes, how is the game going to grow up here?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Roar 2 - Adelaide 2

Well quite a few missed opportunities there lads.

Gota Love the way you can come back from goals down.

Pity about the red cards.

Still there is aways next week.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rainy Opener: Sydney 0 Central Coast 1

Central Coast are going to be an even tougher team this year - without Brazilians (who take the place of Australians according to coach Lawrie McKinna). They have their traditional defensive blood and guts and, now, a devastating attack force in Sasho Petrovski and Nic Mrdja.

The plus for Sydney is that they will play better in the dry. Juninho, by his admission, was short of game time. Yet he still had flashes of brilliance. Unfortunately for Sydney, Popovic did not. Popovic's game was uneventful at best, at worst he was missing at key times. Alex Brosque got himself in the right place a few times but squibbed his opportunities (ah just like old times).

Central Coast did dominate in the first half. And Sasho got his revenge goal early.

But it was Peter Green's greeness that led to a refereeing blunder that let Central Coast off the hook. Heffernan clearly and with malice took Milligan out in the penalty box with a deliberate elbow to the head. Penalty! Send off! No. Free kick to Central Coast. Eh? Ref inexperience and mistakes could turn out to be a problem for the FFA. Particularly when trying to attract crowds to watch superstars like Juninho (who was repeatedly fouled in the first half).

Sydney dominated the second half but didn't look like scoring till the final 5 minutes. Then it seemed incredible that they didn't, particularly when jet-lagged under 23 star keeper Danny Vukovic decided to play up field and left his goal for the no hands men to defend (you probably had to see it to believe how Chancey that was).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ohh so far it looks close.

Once again it looks like the a-league has gone up a notch, the arms race continues, and the teams are close. Melbourne, of all teams the only one that looks out of form. But can you believe that?

Will the crowds come? I hope so, the teams have done their bit now the crowds need to pay for the entertainment.

We are in drought up here in Queensland. But would you believe it we have a mini cyclone off the coast. Limited training for the Roar. And Lang Park could turn into a quagmire. Will the fans come in the rain. I hope so. Never been to a wet game yet. The Roar really really need to get 20,000 at the first game.

Brazilians everywhere and not one low cost Asian star. reflects what the fans know and what the clubs are prepared to bet on.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ready for version 3: Ante Milicic and Stuart McLaren are!

If Ante Milicic and Stuart McLaren can fight father time for one more season, the Roar are going to win this year. Their Australian experience will match Frank's new signings.

Ante's goal against the Solomon Islands was so controlled a tap in from 18 metres, it illustrated his confidence. Stuart has muscled so much I didn't recognise him. He clearly wants in this year.

Danny Tiatto and Craig Moore looked very smooth and obviously know what they are doing. Plus there were surprises from Michael Zullo.

In a few days we will know. Can't wait.

Ready for version 3: Ante Milicic and Stuart McLaren are!

If Ante Milicic and Stuart McLaren can fight father time for one more season, the Roar are going to win this year. Their Australian experience will match Frank's new signings.

Ante's goal against the Solomon Islands was so controlled a tap in from 18 metres, it illustrated his confidence. Stuart has muscled so much I didn't recognise him. He clearly wants in this year.

Danny Tiatto and Craig Moore looked very smooth and obviously know what they are doing. Plus there were surprises from Michael Zullo.

In a few days we will know. Can't wait.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A cold night in August. On playing in the Coaches v Coaches

A coaches v coaches game is going to be makeshift. But it is the sought of thing that our club is excellent at. Bringing together children and their parents, different cultures and economic circumstances and creating a fun learning environment. Big heads and trophy hunters aren't really at home. But like everyone, we like winning.

And our club has its share of off-field champions. More than its share. But like everyone and everywhere, we are too reliant on too few. Human nature. The workers do so much carrying that the carried don't even notice they are being lifted.

Some of these champions are just like us. Others have great footballing CVs but you never really find out. They are here because this is the type of club they like.

Anyway. I walked into the change room with a group of men about my age who I don't know that well. So I opened up with a loosener. 'I used to play in the 1st division.' The unspoken response is a mixture of 'smarty' and relief. So I followed up with, '29 years ago when I last played.' It worked. Laughter. Nothing funnier than the truth in black humour.

Like everyone, I dreamed of bulging the back of the net. But it wasn't going to be. I noticed in the warm-up that no-one was wearing the keeping gear. So being a bit hyper, I started asking where the seven foot, 18 year old was that we needed. He, nor anyone else, was coming. So I volunteered for goalie.

It started bad and got worse. I was really keen to get my first touch so I called for a back pass, and picked it up. Damm. I forgot about that rule. Survived the free kick. But for my second touch I got over excited trying to kick a ball away. It connected with my studs and kept going. Someone, who ran far too fast for his age, whipped in behind me and scored. Damm. (1-1) Then someone crossed the ball and it went through my legs (so that's what being nutmegged felt like). But at least they don't score. Actually, I started to get the hang of it. Long minutes of doing nothing, then intense pressure for 30 or 40 seconds. Actually, this is what my team's goalkeeper tells me he likes and I can see why. But 100 kilos running full pelt at you can be a little intimidating, at first. But I had noticed how slippery the ball was and I had got my 'eye in'. They only got one more goal when some smarty chipped me from outside the box, and I miss-judged where I was. I actually pulled off some good saves. Not world class but I did charge back at strikers and got down on the ground to take the ball from a striker's feet. Plus our defenders did some real tackling, which surprised me. I found that even though the ball was like a block of concrete, I could kick it over half way from goal kicks (despite how my leg feels today I am still glad I did that). Cool. 3-2 to us at half time.

In the second half, I owned up to not being a good goalie and switched to mid-field - which when I ran out of breath ended up as striker. Should have stayed in goals. By the time our team worked out what I was doing I had made about 10 runs into gaps, curving to stay onside. And I had lost my edge. Well, I was bent over and holding my knees. I thought this would make the other team relax about me and but after a couple more runs this became a necessity. So our team started pumping balls down the left wing for me to chase. Which I did, and did do some great work to keep the ball in. But crossing it from the far left was something else. Stationary free kicks were one thing, kicking the ball across goal while running as fast as I could was something else. Then it happened. One of my team-mates, running behind me, got the ball and I ran forward and towards goal - it was on. And he cannoned the ball straight into my back. Thanks for that. The game got a bit slower after that. 3-4 to them.

I went back to the changing room and closed up with another loosener. 'Hey number 10, if I'd been 10 years younger I would have got those passes across to you.' He replied 'If I'd been 10 years younger, I would have got them.'

Ah, that happy sound again.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Book Review: It's Only A Game by John O'Neill - Charter 19 The A-League

It is only a game. I say this to parents when they tell me that their child can't come because they have a wedding to go to. I know that will make them feel OK. But I don't mean it the way they mean it. I mean it's only a game the way mathematics is only a school subject. Or urgent brain surgery is still only surgery.

Anyway. I went straight to charter 19: The A-League. And while a former CEO, well at least a reputable one, isn't going to rat on his old organisation, I did learn a lot from the 14 pages. And more from the 100 pages he devotes to our football code. But I'll write about those later. Charter 19 is largely about the end of the old soccer administration and the beginning of the new one.

For instance, the recruitment of John Ribot was a significant factor in the Roar getting the Brisbane license. He brought professional sport experience and helped demonstrate an up-to-date approach.

O'Neill on the Foxtel deal interested me the most. I hadn't read the logic of the Foxtel deal before. It isn't really understood by fans. Which is a shame because I know it hurts many, and hides the progress or otherwise of the Socceroos from many, many kids. People need to know why it was done. O'Neill is adamant. Foxtel was critical. It facilitated getting other sponsors. And without the Socceroos in the broadcasting deal and, probably, without the qualification for the 2006 World Cup, the A-League would not have had enough money.

O'Neill records that the Australian Sports Commission was prepared for state based competitions without a set of national teams. Yep, they were interested in the mass participation and the national teams. The National Soccer League had been blamed for weakening football as a game in Australia. Therefore, the A-League was no certainty in 2004.

The last season of the NSL had cost $121 million to run. Around $52 million was unfunded. Ouch. Plus hardly anyone watched.

The free to air stations wanted the FFA to pay for the TV production costs and to be provide d with the first year to the A-League for free. That is, they were prepared to take no risk.

Only Foxtel, keen for new content, and for a reason for people like me to start paying for TV access, were prepared to pay. Foxtel would pay for production and $500,000 for the first year's rights. Foxtel's success in the A-League's first year led to the offer of $130 million for seven years including the Socceroos. Given the financial pressures the clubs have felt, this deal saved the A-League.

It's Only A Game: A Life in Sport by John O'Neill is published by Random House Australia in 2007 . Recommended retail is $49.95 but I picked it up for $34.95.

I understand that Foxtel was profitable for the first time in 2006-2007.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Rale Rasic: Australia's first professional coach

I remember watching one of Rale's players get karate chopped by a Uruguayan. It was before 1974 and I just wanted the socceroos to beat the South Americans. I was so outraged I would have blogged if there was such a thing. But alas no, I had to keep it all in.

The wikipedia entry on Rale is classic:

"They took from me something that I was doing better than anyone else. I was a true-blue Aussie and nobody can deny that. I taught the players how to sing the national anthem."

Anyway, good to see he thinks we are 'amateur hour' for making our suggestions for the socceroos coach - because we aren't getting paid. However, unfortunately, he was wrong in that the FFA were never considering the Iraqi coach - our friend was probably just doing the old Hollywood agent thing and suggesting he was getting heaps of unsolicited job offers.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Pre-season cup: version 3 likely to continue to be close

Melbourne have disappointed so far (a draw and 3 losses).

And Adelaide (2 wins and 2 draws), who appeared to have been gutted after last year's disasters seem to be on fire. Overall, Adelaide get the home ground advantage over Perth for next week's final due to the bonus point system - which allowed them to top their group ahead of Perth on goal difference despite lesser results.

But it is Perth (3 wins and 1 draw), whom I again had marked as unlikelys for this version, that have surprised with their strength.

Central Coast look strong financially and in terms of experienced players.

And I had a laugh when Frank Farina commented on Wellington's (2 wins and 2 losses) strength relative to the Knights, given the Roar dropped 6 points in NZ last season.

Sydney (1 draw and 3 losses) and Newcastle (2 wins and 2 losses) are still the question marks. It seems to be incredible that Sydney has managed to look depleted again after last seasons woes, but signing Juninho is of cause a major coup that is likely to steady their ship (oh if we all only had that sought of money to risk with such a poor current crowd performance).

Newcastle I just don't know. Could they end up as the season's easy beats? Or will someone else fail to live up to expectations.

The Roar have thrown all the dices this season. They must attract big crowds. To do this they must win at home - something they have only done 4 times in 21 games. A pre-Craig Moore Roar lost 2-3 to Adelaide in Adelaide. Reinaldo seems to be living up to his potential, but Marchino must also for the Roar to make it. Adelaide's new recruit Cassio is starting to sound like the A-League's new Fred. And overall Australia seems to be becoming up and coming Brazilians (South American if you include Newcastle's Argentinian) first testing ground.

For the 3rd year in a row the coverage of the pre-season cup is disappointing. Can't see it, can't hear it, just have to take someone else's viewpoint on the performance. And the crowds are reflecting both the lack of publicity and, in some cases, a positive preparedness to take the game to regional areas.