Saturday, May 31, 2008

Socceroos and my football week

Rain. That is the latest threat to tomorrow's Socceroo's game. And not merely slowing it down and making it less expansive. We are expecting the winter version of a tropical storm. Fraser Island coped 150 mils. It is forecast to start raining in the afternoon and keep going.

This comes on top of the week of heartache we have had over whether FIFA would let Iraq play. And it is just too hard to know who or what to believe on that score. Iraq Football Association president Hussein Saeed came to the FIFA congress and reassured everyone he hadn't been sacked. And the World Cup qualifier was given the go ahead. But we are also told that Saeed is FIFA boss Sepp Blatter's friend. We are also told that Iraq's winnings from last year's Asia Cup have disappeared, that the former head was kidnapped in 2006 and not heard of again and that several other board officials have also disappeared. And that deadlines for a FIFA required election of IFA officials have long past and that the last election was 5 years ago. So if all this is true can a football federation continue without sanction? And was the previous IFA under Uday Hussein (Saddam Hussein's son) OK even though there was no election and apparent torture?

Anyway, on the entertainment front Miron Bleiberg is back in the news. You will recall that the FFA decided not to allow his Gold Coast Galaxy team to be the 9th A-League team this coming season. At the time the Fox commentators wondered who else FFA may have in mind. I thought they meant bidders from elsewhere. But there is now speculation that Miron has gone behind the Galaxy bid to a new bid funded by billionaire Cliver Palmer. Galaxy have dismissed Miron and asked the FFA for clarification. Apparently, Palmer wanted to be part of the Galaxy bid but terms couldn't be agreed. there is more water to go under this bridge (probably tomorrow but hopefully not at Lang Park). Oh and the decision not to go with 9 this season has meant we only get two teams in the Champions' League.

Juventus beat Melbourne 4-1. The difference was their capacity in front of goal. If only players in the A-League could head like that - bam break the back of the net (2 of the goals came from headed crosses).

At the last minute former Juventus star Zidane cancelled his Australian exhibition game and refugee coaching session. Apparently he was off somewhere else. However, it seems he over-estimated interest in seeing him here. He doesn't have the crowd interest here of Beckham and it was a poorly chosen weekend. Although at one stage we thought he may be called up to Brisbane to play the Socceroos if the Iraqis were denied.

I've go to go and prepare my wet weather gear... snorkel anyone?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Socceroos breaking news

Socceroos were meant to sign autographs in the Brisbane mall today for Amart Allsports. They didn't appear. So I rang Amart. They said FIFA had cancelled. So I asked if they meant FFA? They thought it could have been. So I asked if the match was on on Sunday. They thought it may not be.

I had wanted to photo Ginger Megs and get him to sign a glove or something. So I photographed the empty space and will hope Lang Park doesn't look like it on Sunday.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Changchun 0 v Adelaide 0: Adelaide shows A-League should get 4 spots & China only 2

Changchun and their 4 national team players had a great opening 20 minutes. But when they couldn't make anything out of good breakaway opportunities and getting behind Adelaide - they lost their spark.

ACL has made a mistake offering the A-League only 2 spots and teams from China and Iran 4. they should have looked at the opportunity that is Brisbane and Sydney for Asian football. The A-League lost points for 'organisation'. I wonder what the assessment was based on? Perhaps all the questions were whether they think we are arrogant (which we are but so are the countries that won out - the more self effacing nations lost their spots). The A-League is not the 21st best organisation in Asia.

Adelaide, and in particular coach Vidmar, have earned their place in the top 8. It should be like the tennis Davis Cup. Your country proves it can make the finals and it gets automatic entry to the group stage.

Changchun were outplayed by Adelaide and by the second half it became clear that they had no answers except diving and lost tempers. I imagine Chinese players are pushed to the edge and when they look like missing out the pressure gets too much from them (remember the Chinese U21 tour of England and their fight with they hosts).

Adelaide know how to play 'ground them out' football and with the Chinese playing 'long ball' it just became too easy.

Some player analysis:

Eugene Galekovic played a risky game in goal and chose wrongly to punch out too many times.

Richie Alagich had a great last game, no one really got past him.

Sasa Ognenovski is fitting right in and will be a massive loss to the Roar (I haven't seen any sign of a replacement yet).

Nathan Burns and Bruce Djite played their last games and will both be missed. However, Adelaide has signed two more Brazilians and Cassio will be back for the start of the A-League season. Nathan Burns had it over the Chinese mid-field.

Angelo Costanzo is back to form.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Melbourne 3 - Chonburi 1: A-League misses out on ACL revamp

Too little too late from Melbourne. For the Thai team hiring two quality Brazilian strikers was not enough to keep their league in the ACL. The brave face for the A-League was the principal that no more than 1/3 of the teams in a league could get automatic qualification. If true this puts pressure back to the decision not to accept Gold Coast - ironically shielding the Roar away from a third spot.

The real problem is that the A-League does not hold the stars the way that China, Japan and Korea does. This means more and better teams and 4 ACL spots. The additional ACL spots would have encouraged Australian clubs to expand and take more risks.

Europe is not a drain on China, Japan and Korea because of visa, language and cultural problems. These problems are less likely to be there for many Australian players.

Keeping their top players helps crowds and finances bigger player salaries. Bigger talent pools help too and bigger populations and less football code competition is also a significant advantage.

Also, players want to leave Australia - look at what Pim is doing goading Jade North to leave Australia - this would never ever happen in Japan.

Back to the game - Melbourne played interesting in tight spaces.

Adelaide's game was postponed due to the mourning period in China.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Zidane come to Sydney - oh dear

Unfortunately it is 1 June when the Socceroos are playing Iraq in the most important 2010 World Cup qualification match so far. The FFA are not happy at all.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What I learnt from the AFL guy

I had a very interesting conversation with an AFL expert this week and learnt a lot about our game. For a start, I learnt what AFL's brains-trust thinks of football.

I don't think they see it as a threat. In fact they may even think that they are winning the battle for young minds. Apparently, the key success factor getting kids to stay/sign up with a sport is the career path. Even if it is only in their dreams. Through AFL eyes, football has a major - major draw back. You can't access the big stars. In AFL you can, in football you can't. The really good players have to go overseas in football, so we will only see the best at the beginning and the end of their careers. Plus going overseas is a lottery. You make it in Australia in AFL and you have made it, you make it in football here and you have taken the first step.

For AFL they are continually looking at ways to make the big stars readily accessible to young fans to counter the games modernisation, professionalism and training regime.

Don't be surprised if Ben Buckley uses the FFA as a pathway back into AFL - perhaps CEO. AFL would see FFA as a challenging experience for potential executives. But don't expect too many 'guns' to take that path. There is too much happening in AFL. Too many new ways to grow the sport.

A-League clubs need to find ways to access more money so that they can become more professional in their interactions with fans. They need to find a way to keep the kids wanting to watch and play. AFL is certainly thinking about how to win them.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tommy Oar - on his way to the Roar

The Queensland State League is doing its job - even if some teams are finding it a bit like shooting fish in a barrel.

Tommy Oar bends free kicks like Beckham. He is 16 and he is signed for the Roar! He currently plays for Queensland Institute of Sport and is being watched by QAS and Roar keeper-coach Fernando Alves. Last week FFA National Development Manager Rob Baan watched him bend a free kick around a 5 man wall and into the goal. Can't wait to photo this guy.

The Brisbane Strikers is being used as a base for a few second shots at glory. Our mate Stewart McLaren is captain coach (again), and another former Roar from version one Reece Tollenaere is there too. And former Striker from Frank Farina's days Chay Hews is there too. Chay has made it clear he is out to prove to Frank Farina that after stints at Vastra Frolunda, IF Sylvia (Sweden), Carlisle United (England), and Bellmare Hiratsuka (Japan), he has something for the Roar midfield. Mmmmm. Tough battle for that position at 32.

'By The Balls' Blogview

By The Balls
I found a CD version of Les Murray reading his autobiography 'By The Balls'.

I have always viewed Les Murray as a hero of football. Even when I drifted away from the game I was always pleased to see that he was there promoting it. One step down from Johnny Warren, Les was there as a key player.

When it became clear that finance had become the critical factor in the game's sustainability and the FFA and then the A-League came along, I felt for SBS and Les Murray. They had invested a lot and expediency meant that they were being sidelined.

I like getting CD books because it means I can do 'reading' when I am driving and it only took me 4 days to get though Murray's work. We are given insight into to the man behind the TV personality, his escape from Hungary, his football playing days, his singing and work as an entertainer, his football commentary and presenting career steps. But for me there was something missing. For example, initially his father's role is key in his interest in football and the bravery in being questioned by guards when escaping Hungary. But later he appears to be dismissed as a drinker (even his father's claims to have played for a top team are treated with skepticism). There is very little coverage of Les Murray's joy for football. Even at the end he is longing to be up in the stands with the fans.

Les Murray seems to have used the book, as we can all use writing, to get a few things off his chest. For a journalist, he seems to have little empathy for the other side of any argument. And the heart of the book is an extended rank against Frank Farina. Why? Frank was a straw man in the performance of the Socceroos before world cup qualification. Clearly, SBS, one of its journalists in particular and Les Murray were doing little to help other than singling out a young coach that had been given 6 years of intense tripe - the Socceroos wins are ours, the losses were clearly lain at Frank's feet. Contract or no contract, out of respect for the position of Socceroos coach, SBS should have changed interviewers when it was clear there was a personality clash and criminal charges should never have been threatened against Farina.

Les Murray doesn't focus on the joy of football and only really gives us a picture of Johnny Warren in the process of dieing. Which is a shame. He seems to have a chip on his shoulder and this chip seems to have green-lighted the jaundiced view that we now get from SBS on football in Australia.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Hang on a minute: another view on Danny Vukovic

If you think Danny Vukovic was treated harshly, have a read of what happens if you are, say, 11 or 12 and you hit a ref. This is a quote from Football Brisbane's Disciplinary Policy 2008 (ie after Vukovic on Shield - note also that Shield is a Brisbane based ref):

"Deliberately striking a match official by way of physical contact with any part of the body or the use of any object. Recommended minimum penalty: 10 years suspension from all facets of the game (player or team official), $5,000 fine on club."

or even a much lesser offence:

"Deliberate physical contact with a match official... Such conduct would include, but is not limited to, deliberately pushing a match official. Recommended minimum penalty: 2 years suspension from all facets of the game (player or team official), $800 fine on club."

10 years or 2 years that is the end of football for a 12 year old.

Joel Griffiths and Danny Vukovic were saved because they are part of the football establishment. Some kid who loses it - is finished.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Not GC but LA: Beckham comes to Brisbane in November

Version 4 could be the Roars most vital season.

Struggling through critical financial pain in versions 1 and 2, we can assume that the club, with its restructured shareholder base, did OK in version 3. The sale of Reinaldo, with a season to run on his contract should have helped (although it doesn't appear to have helped him - from what I can tell - and the Korea league is not very transparent - he doesn't seem to have have played yet).

The Roar are now in pre-season. And I am looking forward to trial matches to have a look at Tim Smits and David Dodd in Roar shirts.

Apparently, the Roar is trying to sign two Brazilians. Hopefully one will be a giant full back. Just a suggestion Frank.

Hopefully no one will succumb to temptation and sell Robbie Kruse. With a bit more energy, Kruse could be the best player in the A-League. And it seems bizarre that Zullo and Minniecon where chosen ahead of Kruse for Olympics training camp.

The Roar's 4th season opens in Wellington on 17 August. The first 2 home games are against Adelaide (remember Og anyone?) on Sunday 24 August and Central Coast on 31 August.

Making up for our turn at the 10 home game season, it looks like the Roar will play Beckham's LA Galaxy in November. However, the traditional v Sydney end to the season has been stuffed up, with the Roar playing Sydney at home on 17 January and then poor old Perth at home on 24 January.

There is no news on a season opener, similar to last year, against an African team

I am surprised that while other exiting players have been removed from the Roar's player list Stuart McLaren is still there. Given the lack of power at the back, let's hope he stays. He is currently captain coach of the Brisbane Strikers in the Qld State League. The Strikers are coming 4th in a field of 10 after 5 rounds. The biggest news from this league for Roar fans is the emergence and signing of 16 year old Tom Oar currently with the Queensland Academy of Sport. QAS is sixth with only one win. But Oar is leading the most valuable player ratings. Oar has scored 4 goals, well behind Barry Moran from Redlands City Devils and Shaun Blackman from leaders Sunshine Coast FC who have both had 4 goal games and who both have scored 8 goals in 5 games. The rate of goal scoring fests indicates the league quality is quiet varied.