Friday, October 31, 2008

Let justice be done or the heavens fall: Adelaide 2 v Melbourne 3

Cristiano needs to leave the A-League. He is bringing the game into disrepute.

It is one thing for bloggers to point out that when Cristiano is in play he is looking to win a foul, dive or do thuggery on his opponents. But he has now been found out for all to see on worldwide TV footage.

In each game this year there has been suspicions and accusations. It was Cristiano that used an offside position to assist the goal against the Roar and won Frank Farina a fine for pointing it out.

He can play. And has scored 5 goals. But he seems to prefer to cheat. In this game he targeted Vargas, diving in front of him to win the penalty, ramming his elbow into Vargas's chest to win high balls, and getting caught shoulder checking Vargas inside the Adelaide penalty area (this one looked like straight thuggery as Vargas was well away from play and the ball wasn't going in the goal).

It is time to do something about Cristiano. At least tonight justice was done.

Mark Shield's last game. Will Adelaide's Captain Dodd and Coach Vidmar also leave (for Japan)?

Mark Shield with his back to the seat at the A-League and warming up.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Reinaldo out for a month

The Courier Mail have the story. It seems Reinaldo has been playing with a pelvis injury all season. Which explains a lot.

Winning away, Ballymore and all that

This post is essentially a response to our Japanese correspondent the honourable Clayton san. Clayton wrote a comment on my response to the 'why the Roar don't win at home question.' This is the latest running story now that Craig Moore has actually played for the Socceroos again.

Clayton san posted the comment:
'Dunno, something felt a bit strange to me about your post. So the Roar go away from home and sit back on the counter, so they win. And that`s good. But its bad when other teams come to Brisbane and do the same to them?'
Well yes, in a way. I wanted to illustrate that as a tactic it is easier to deploy defence successfully than attempting to entertain the crowd. Mike Colman had pointed out that 'Roar' rhymed with 'bore' so I wanted to address that. What the Roar seem to do is hit teams away hard till they score and then sit back and defend. Against Wellington it worked. Against Sydney they let in a last minute goal and had to settle for 1-1. In any case, the point is that it easier to defend than attack. Boring is not good, but all teams have learnt that it is at least better than losing away. This is what I heard when listening to Aurelio Vidmar in his conference after Adelaide beat the Roar 0-1. He basically said the Roar are a very good team, if you play attacking against them at home, they will thrash you, so you defend and play on the counter.

Colman had made another point:
'Other "smaller" clubs like Central Coast, Newcastle and the ACL finals-bound Adelaide have gone forwards while the Roar for all their potential crowd support and world-class stadium have gone in the opposite direction.' 23 October 2008.'
I agree that being small is an advantage. The initial assumption was that being small would be a disadvantage and could lead to failure.

In his book 'It's Only A Game: A Life In Sport', the first FFA CEO John O'Neill documents how Central Coast where going to be rejected in their bid for an A-League franchise because their potential supporter base was just too small. However, I have come to believe that the reverse is true. That the salary cap works to protect the small teams at the expense of the ones with a larger potential fan base. It gives them more spare money to invest in club development rather than in supporting either the search for fans or the need to finance losses from home games. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald, 24 October 2008, by Michael Cockerill and Sebastian Hassett highlights this point. They argue that Sydney FC is currently in another round of fund raising from its shareholders to fund operating costs. They also state that 22% shareholder Russian oil and gas millionaire may switch to a potential western Sydney franchise as he is frustrated with his lack of influence at Sydney FC.

The cap means that the A-League has no prospect of a Chelsea or Man U. Which is good because it means that no team will grow to dominate and price the others out of talent available to the Australian market. But it does mean that teams find it much harder to leverage their potential fans to create advantage. There the key stat becomes net income to overheads. The teams with bigger overheads must find ways to control costs. And this can become a priority over building team support, marquee payments and guest players. My thinking on salary caps was shaped by an article in The Economist 'In a league of its own: America's national football league offers a business lesson to other sports' published on 27 April 2006. This article points out that American gridiron franchisees control and share all revenue, from gate-take to TV rights. Therefore, small teams have the same financial resources as large teams. But critically they also share the same risk. So if the big stadium are not filling because of negative tactics from the small teams, all teams feel this pain. There is also a strict salary cap. Indeed a balance has developed in which both large and small teams can win and be very financially successful. This is contrasted with the English Premier League which has always been barely viable financially and has increasingly become a place for billionaires to spend money with limited prospect of a sustainable return on their investment. Even the English Football Association has recognised this problem. The American Major League Soccer has learnt this sustainability lesson and adopted a small competition, some revenue sharing, a salary cap with marquees, and player purchases controlled centrally (for example this has prevented David Beckham's LA Galaxy from dominating). An excellent book on this is 'Inside The Minds: The Business of Sports - Executives from major sports franchises on how a team operates behind the scenes' published by Aspatore Books in 2004. For information on the viability of EPL, I recommend Stephen Aris' 1990 'Sportsbiz: Inside the sports Business' published by Hutchinson, and 'The Economics of Football' by Stephen Dobson and John Goddard published by Cambridge in 2001 (looks at relative long term success by size of fan base).

In the A-League, certain teams larger share of costs are essentially the seats in the home stadium and the support servicing costs on match day. Teams with bigger stadiums pay for the seating capacity, and extra for the services (like Spotless) for crowds that are smaller than anticipated. Of the teams with big stadium, only Melbourne has reached a critical mass. I recall from season one that Melbourne was one of several teams that received FFA assistance. Since, their exciting play and players (particularly their successful foreign players) has carried them to huge home support. Victory will be the only Victorian franchise for the foreseeable future. In this they have a massive advantage over Sydney. NSW has supported 3 teams and, from next year, so will Queensland. In later seasons, NSW may add Wollongong and a team from the western suburbs. It can also be noted that Adelaide trialled playing at a bigger field - for major games over new year - and while they seem to made money from it seem to have dropped the idea. They seem to prefer - a clear message to their fans about where they play, a full house even if some miss out (see their ACL home games) and the intimidation effect on visiting teams of Hindmarsh.

Miron has promised that Gold Coast will keep its fans by playing attacking football. Win or lose he did so at the Roar. So far it seems that he will have both a relatively small home ground and massive financial backing from Clive Palmer (I wonder whether the financial crisis and declining commodity prices have affected this). Miron has had a few arguments in the press with the Roar and, in particular, Craig Moore. He may have scores to settle over the way he feels he was treated when he was the Roar coach (an alleged meeting between management and Frank at an airport). He also poached 5 of the Roar's middle managers this year which I feel has impacted their strategies. Given this, I am surprised that Miron seems to be very visible at Roar home games in a commentary deal with Foxtel. I wonder what the Roar think about that.

This brings me to the next part of Clayton's comment:
"Against the cross bar had a post saying that the Roar could be off to Ballymore next season. And they could be changing names. What do you think about these possibilities?'
The Ballymore issue has been covered in the Courier Mail. When the Roar went through its financial issues in season two Ballymore was an option. In the end, this option was used to negotiate a better deal with the State Government for the use of Lang Park. Recently, it has been reported that the Ballymore move is for training only. The Roar has been looking to finalise its separation from the Queensland Lions club (no longer owned by the Dutch club and not to be confused with the Brisbane Lions AFL team). It has also been reported that the Roar's contract at Lang Park lasts until the end of next season. I feel that this is probably too far away - a season and half - to have much impact on the Roar's destiny. Next year's conditions and the development of Gold Coast's fan base will have more impact. So going to Ballymore is unlikely next year. If they did move it may be harder for some fans to get to but it also may be less comfortable for visiting teams, because the other viable that does impact home team performance is home packed the stadium feels. 11,000 at 24,000 seat Ballymore would be much more intimating than the same at 52,000 seat Lang Park. Winning regularly at Ballymore could lift the fan base. Perhaps the lift of 32,000 against Sydney at the end of last year explains why the team played so well.

As far as the name goes, it has been mooted that Queensland could be dropped for Brisbane Roar. I would strongly recommend that they do not do this. Why not keep all the fans outside Gold Coast and Far North Queensland? Equally, changing the name Roar would be like the team starting again. I would recommend against this. Changing the name will do nothing for results and is likely to alienate the fans, give them a result to reconsider their support. A brilliant book on keeping fans is 'The Elusive Fan: Reinventing sports in a crowded marketplace' by Irving Rein, Philip Kotler and Ben Shields published in 2006 by McGraw Hill. Again this should be compulsory reading for the FFA and A-League franchises. The A-League also has a lot to learn about keeping fans in Australia from AFL. When you have a name in the marketplace you need to built, perhaps re-position, but to start again is very dangerous. This is because reputation management is a very difficult practice, and in particular markets it can only be learnt through experience.

Finally, Calyton commented:
'There is a lot of pressure on at the moment, but the Roar should have been expecting tougher times this year. Couldn't expect Adelaide and Melbourne to play as badly as they did the year before. So that is 6 decent teams and only 4 playoff spots ... '
This is a good point. The strength of the A-League is that any team can win. The question was 'what could they have done differently?' They may feel they did the best they could. In the off season their chair John Ribot resigned and Jayco sold its stake. I think Ribot's sports business wisdom had been a major asset. This year they have focused on keeping their current squad and not losing what they see as key players to the Gold Coast. The FFA has had two CEOs with sports management experience, rugby union and AFL, rather than football experience. This ensures than the head rules on decision making. For example, the Roar has close Dutch connections and acquired Dutch 2nd league striker Sergio Van Dijk.

Paul Downward and Alistair Dawson's 2000 'The Economics Of Professional Team Sports' published by Routledge attempts to answer the question of whether dominant teams kill public interest in professional sports.

Anyway, I have found that economists like writing about what their discipline can teach about sport. What I have found interesting is how few owners and potential owners have read them. Still probably a good thing as it may have put them off. You need to be an iconoclast to invest in football.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wishful thinking from rugby league, and home form

As rugby league struggles towards its death bed, Brisbane's sports journalists are desperately trying to point the bone at football. As crowds to rugby league plummet outside Brisbane, and interest in the so called rugby league 'world cup' drains away, Sydney and Brisbane papers run page one colour photos of the cup teams. Meanwhile, the greatest achievement of a team of any code, Adelaide's qualification for the highly contested Asian Confederation Cup is relegated to 10 pages in from the back.

Meanwhile, the Courier-Mail's football and basketball specialist, Marco Monteverde has hit the nail on the head as far as the Roar not winning at home and it has nothing to do with Reinaldo, Frank Farina or other Roar personnel. In his interview with Massimo Murdocca it was disclosed that:

"I think our mentality when we go away is to let the other team come at us first," Murdocca said. And perhaps the Roar's success at absorbing pressure before landing killer blows on unsuspecting hosts has them adopting similar tactics at home particularly since Frank Farina replaced Miron Bleiberg in late 2006 instead of taking the initiative in attack. "We can't really do that at home, we can't let other people come at us, because if we sit off, they'll sit off and we'll just be drawing all the time," Murdocca said. Or losing. Queensland has only tasted success 10 times in 37 matches at Suncorp Stadium, with the Jets having won five out of five in Brisbane.' 'Murdocca says Roar have no confidence at Suncorp' 27 October 2008
The salary cap does this. Teams with small overheads can afford to bore their fans on the evenly balanced chance of a win or draw at home. Sydney and the Roar with massive home stadiums to fill must entertain or loose their fan base. Remember how Sydney's home crowd disappeared in season two when the tactics were switched to defence?

And when the home team attacks all the visiting team has to do is absorb, absorb and then hit on the counter. If the strikers were good enough and athletic enough to get through the Newcastle, CCM or, particularly Adelaide, defensive walls - they would be earning big money in Europe. As Adelaide's Asian success shows, the quality to punch through a well disciplined back four of reasonable quality, but physical defenders, just isn't that common. Interestingly, it is Adelaide that have learnt the trick to their own tactic. Get a very strong, physical striker, stronger than your opponents defenders, who will barge through, dive, run at defenders in the box - concede fouls - Cristiano has the 2nd or 3rd highest foul rate in the league, but on will also win penalties and penalties win games, or make defenders afraid to tackle them, or barge through with headers. Cristiano's success highlights the Roar's Van Dijk and Newcastle's Zora's failure - the later try to get there with finesse and skill. A waste of time if you don't have physicality.

Only Melbourne with its massive rain, hail or shine interest in watching sports has been able to survive playing attack at home. And it has been painful for the Victory faithful - failure in season one, victory in season two and, despite a late run, failure in season three. But their Asian appearance attracted so quality foreigners to allow success and again in season 4.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wellington 0 v Roar 1: Closing out practice

The first half was 60% Roar. In the first 30 seconds, Murdocca got an early break and took the ball forward and to the right of goal. Wellington showed its hand by getting two onto the man with the ball. However, Murdocca's neat cut back and shot forced the bast save of the match from Paston.

For most of the rest of the match the Roar couldn't get near the goal. The exceptions came towards the end of the half when Miller took a free kick that forced Pasten to palm the ball to his left and McCloughan's get headed goal.

There was also McKay's great run from the left in towards goal deep into the penalty with a great cross for Van Dijk who over-ran the tap in. And deep into the second half, after he had come on for Smits, Reinaldo somehow was able to run the ball through the Wellington defence, run in from the right and cut back for Murdocca - who failed to use the time on his side - blasted wide.

In a mirror of Aloisi starting on the bench for Sydney, the big news was that Reinaldo was to start on the bench. By the time he did come on the Roar were in this business of closing out the match. And while his touch looked good, there was little forward momentum. And he was unable to copy Aloisi. But the 3 points were the same.

It is interesting that Herbert keeps players of the capability of Bertos and Daniel on his bench regularly. Only when they came on did Wellington look like scoring.

For the Roar both Smits and Van Dijk lacked the strength to force a goal. Charlie Miller was not able to really leave his mark on the game, although he looks better in midfield than up front. And the Roar were better for McKay getting more of the game as a result. Packer played well and made runs up the left. Mundy also impressed with his second game, this time we saw him run with the ball and shoot. Tiatto doesn't have anywhere near the impact he did last year and he limped off with a hamstring injury early in the first half. Van Dijk was stretchered off late in the game and could be out next week.

CCM 1 V Jets 0, Victory 0 V Sydney 2

Matt Simon from CCM and Evan Berger from Victory are the stand outs for their teams. It is a credit to CCM and Victory that they have invested in these players without immediate payout to ultimately produce 2 new stars.

Simon was the difference against Newcastle this week, crossing the ball to set-up the goal. And while Berger was on the losing side, he was the best player on the park.


The Women's league kicked off this weekend. I wonder if there is a salary cap system in the W-League? FFA said this week that they don't see the league making money for a while. I watched a bit of on the ABC - Syd v Perth. 835 people watched Roar beat Adelaide 4-1. I suspect that the w-league will be more open and less defensive than the A-L. Also I expect that there will be a wide gap between the team skill sets.

Monday, October 20, 2008


An amazing weekend. Newcastle look top class again. Wellington hold off CCM. Perth time out Sydney. 3 of the bottom 4 beat 3 of the top 4.

Only the Roar miss out. The stress and fustration at Lang Park in Brisbane was palpable. While Roar fans are used to their team dominating and drawing or losing. This match was different. The Roar did not dominate, byenlarge their attacks were muted and almost all shots from far out and wide.

Specifically, Reinaldo had two opportunitiesto beat the keeper to the ball and certainly score. Both times he got there second. The second time he had a shorter distance to the ball. He looked hestitant and lacking confidence. Miller, who has been a revolation, was in obvious pain and after an initial burst played a muted role in the game. For too long the Roar looked a man short. Tiatto too was not effective in attack and tried to do too much himself, he was however solid in defence.

They have locked in their players to protect against raids from Gold Coast. Maybe by year end they will be looking for options. For this year, the guest player option needs to be looked at.

The Roar now play Wellington in Wellington. The underperforming Wellington has turned their home ground into fortress. The Roar must do the same. But they also now beat Wellington. They don't want to be facing their next home game (against Melbourne) in last place.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Roar 0 v Adelaide 1: 'the crowd of people turned away but I just had to look having read the book'

Same old book.

With one difference.

Mark Shield refed his last A-League game and made the clearest mistake of his career. He may blame his linesman. The Adelaide goal was offside.

Cristiano walked back from offside to head the ball in towards the Roar 6 yard box. On the replay the linesman can be seen watching Cristiano making his way back. Offside. Free kick Roar 0-0 game. But no - play on a scrappy goal. At the other end McKay gets in between Adelaide's defenders and heads beautifully over the keeper and into the net. Goal, Roar win 1-0. But no, offside. Was it? No one in the crowd could know because the replay was covered (just in case all the families with their kids their riot - or more likely not come back when they see a ref mistake go against them). The refs need to know the heat is on them if they make a mistake.

The FFA can't afford this type of error. Adelaide represents the upside and the downside of the A-League. It is great and we all celebrate their Asian giant killing. But the A-league needs the exciting teams to win - not the bores. Adelaide came to Brisbane to bore us and why would they care. Roar fans knew it was coming and only 11,100 turned up.

For the Roar, how can a club keep going when it is continually losing on the key decisions at home? Even Foxtel commentators are now making this point.

If there is any bias in a game it must favour the home team. Unfortunately, tonight you can watch the replay of the Adelaide goal and the Roar no goal, the bias - even if that is poor quality refing - favoured the away team.

To the TV viewer at full time it was all smiles and handshakes for Shields. What you didn't see or hear was that he was booed off the ground.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Socceroos 4 v Qatar 0: Wallop

Half hour delay and Pim put McDonald and Kennedy up front with Cahill in behind. The direction: lots of high balls into the box. Result: Qatar can't jump, playing with 2nd goalkeeper who wouldn't make Perth Glory.

Lang Park was heavy and Qatar wanted to cancel. But it dried out well and the cooler wet conditions gave the Socceroos the advantage. Which they leveraged by playing attack for the first half hour.

As it turned out Qatar's highly questionable qualification to this round over Iraq seems to have paid off for the Socceroos. Qatar changing coaches mid stream had me favouring the Socceroos. But they really belted them. Moore, Emerton (with 2 goals), and Cahill (1 goal) stood out. But every Socceroo beat their counter-part. Qatar lone striker - very lonely and missed a sitter near the end - tried diving in the box early on.

Lots of foul play from Qatar and their standin 2nd half captain should have been sent off for 2nd yellow hand ball.

The hard games are Japan and Bahrain. But so far so good.

Green (& Gold) Skies Over Brisbane

I was walking up Ann Street with colleague. I decided to turn down through Anzac Square. And I walked straight into that unmistakable beaming face. 'Hey Archie, Archie.' Hey how you going. The other Socceroos thought we knew each other. 'Hey Craig, you going on Friday?' 'Are you' he replied. 'Yes, I'll be there.' 'Yes I going' ... He said more to me but he was up a few steps and I was down a few. I then got carried away and started talking to 'Dwight' when it was Bruce Dijte. 'Hi Josh'. Others marched up the steps past me. I wrapped it up with handshakes with assistant coaches Baan and Ron Smith (formerly of Perth Glory - I made a point of reaching out to him as he has been around the Socceroo and youth Socceroos for years). Arnold was on his mobile and focused away from me.

This morning when this happened it was hot and humid. By the afternoon it was green skies. Plenty of gold moments there too. Seeing the Socceroos with no one else around - that's Brisbane and I forgot my camera. Go guys, go.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Roar injury list

It had started to look like Charlie Miller was the find of the A-League. He did look unfit and did look a question mark for the heat. But now it isn't clear just how much more will be seen of him. The Roar says he has a hernia and that he is a week-to-week proposition. Hmmm. He does try so hard, really he has looked like he has pushed his body beyond its capability. It really was too much Charlie Miller. Every one wanted to push to him, he wanted to give one more ounce. He was the last of the breed of Scottish greats with a real work ethic. Maybe he went too far. I wish him well.

Luke DeVere did his leg training for the U19s. The U19s won their tournament and it was CCM's 3rd keeper Andrew Redmayne that got them there with 3 penalty saves in a tropical storm. Bosnich's injury gave him a chance in the A-League, maybe that experience made the difference. A star is born?

Sergio Van Dijk has done his leg. I'd like to see Tajh M get a start.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

It's the economy

The head of the English FA, David Triesman, has warned that at least one major EPL club may fail (The Australian 9/10/8 page 14). Football is a massive business and is tied into the global economy. Football's growth and deviation from its long term norm as a capital negative business has reflected two decades of carbon priming and China's realisation that capitalism and totalitarianism can co-exist. Where we are now, even in the A-League, reflects these happy and slightly unusual times.

The key sponsor of world's biggest club, Manchester United, AIG is under bailout. The US tax payer won't see football as the highest priority.

West Ham's major shareholder has seen his investment in a bank disappear.

Other teams will be being impacted in ways we don't know of yet. Investors and sponsors will not be comfortable.

Unlike 1987, or the Asian crisis of 1997, or the tech wreck, this downturn looks like it will be deeper and take longer to recover. The oil price and other resource prices have fallen. And the Australian dollar has declined from a remarkable high of 98 cents to the US dollar to around 69 cents. A dead cat bounce - where the market falls and all the optimistic bargain hunters pour in and then see their money wiped out as the market falls again - has occurred.

get out there and support your club. They need you.

Friday, October 10, 2008


The FFA's head of refereeing, Mario Van der Ende, another Dutchman, has recommended that a European ref is brought in for key A-League matches. The FFA is considering the idea. It is a direct response to the retirement of Asia's top ref Mark Shield. Shield's last game is in his home town of Brisbane, Roar v Adelaide next Friday.

In season one I recommended to the FFA that they use marquee refs the way clubs use marquee players. In my opinion, the driver behind Van der Ende's suggestion is the reaction from fans, particularly at games, to some poor decisions by the current batch of refs.

Van der Ende's scope includes grass routes games. At the junior level the problem is not the refs but the parents of the players and sometimes coaches. Young refs can be ruthlessly hounded. Often this is done by people who don't even know the rules and have no inclination to learn (eg the offside rule). Many young refs find that it isn't worth the $15 a game and a lot drop out in their first year. At the junior level, the FFA looses more refs than it hires. It is going backwards.

I draw a line between junior matches and A-League games. Junior matches are about learning and development. The A-League is pure and simple entertainment. The learning and development at junior level is more about the development of young people as people and their decision making, it is also about exercise (which counters obesity, ill health - particularly of the mind) and creating a path that does not involve drugs, alcohol, TV, phones or computer games. Learning how to play football, for me, is a means to others ends. The A-League is just about entertainment. The better the A-League does, the more kids will want to play football and will improve their decision making, get exercise and better learning path.

In the A-League, the refs are part of the entertainment. If they make mistakes against the home team they do, and probably should, bear the brunt of the crowds struggle to get some entertainment out of a loss.

Having some A-League refs - who can't keep up with the play - are now being taken advantage of by some skilled players. Take Vaughan Coveny whose Wellington team has taken few tricks this year. He used his skill to make it look like he had been fouled in the box when he hadn't against Newcastle in Newcastle. Cristiano does this too by diving, two years ago Archie Thompson was warned to stop diving in the box. Diving and faking away from home puts home fans off. These are fans the game can ill afford to loose. From this perspective, something has to be done about ref quality.

In the youth game, young refs need an older mentor to debrief them on their experience so they can learn and do better next time. As well as deal with parents who think that their children are already playing for the A-League or Socceroos. For these refs, doing better means learning to make better decisions. We want more kids to grow into adults that make better decisions - for driving cars, at work, for voting. Parents, with a short myopic view on their child's success in one game, miss the development potential.

I tell my players not to worry about ref decisions. In every game there will be mistakes. In season one I recommended video refing. For junior football I don't see the point. Kids need to learn how to deal with authority figures that make mistakes. In life this happens all the time. As Dickens wrote 'my dear boy, only a fool would believe that life is fair.' I tell kids that it is their 'bouncebackability' that matters, what they do next, what decisions they make in the face of others errors that counts. In our world they need resilience, not immediate justice. Learning to differentiate to between an injustice in a sport - which should matter little to a life, and knowing that you also could be wrong - and major injustices, like racism - is the key point.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Adelaide SMASH Kuruvchi 3-0


Tonight we can say Adelaide could be the best team in Asia. They beat a team worth maybe 6 times as much, full of well capped internationals. In the second half Adelaide was too good.

They still have to not concede in the away leg. But the A-League has come of age.

The AFL, union and league. Sorry boys. On a world scale, minor. Poorly paid, not followed.

But Adelaide. Part of the world game. Australians demonstrating that they can mix it with the world's best in the world's most competitive sport. Get with the program.

Pim says A-League is better than English CC Championship for Socceroos

Pim's comments on Nicky Carle playing better in the A-League because he got better passing service are interesting in the context of players better off on the bench in Continental Europe than the A-League. Actually, I think he now likes the A-League better than he did. He has more faith in more players. he even wanted to pick our Luke DeVere (but he was unavailable on other duties).

The boys are in Brisbane. Lucas is telling fans not to think we are a shoe in. And he is right. I recon it is touch and go when we are playing countries like Qatar (moneybags), Bahrain and Japan. Four teams, two spots.

The Roar offered their fans free seats to see Roar players play the Socceroos in 3 times 30 minute sections (wanted to call it halves). But then pulled out with the injuries against Sydney. Not good PR with your fans, but it was at Gold Coast United's home ground. Perhaps Miron may have had another crack at Roar fans?

Monday, October 06, 2008

A week in football - 'from an ocean to a single wave'

The International Court for Arbitration in Sport, according to the Courier Mail (1/10/8 page 94), has ruled that the Iraqi Football Association 'was one day late paying an appeal fee to football's governing body FIFA... It banned Emerson' (who he played for Brazil's u20s before playing for Qatar), 'but cleared Qatar of any wrongdoing.' Now you can see what you pay good money for lawyers for. The world's major institutions, including FIFA, need to be careful about the message they want to send to the people of Iraq about the benefits of participating in civil society. We don't want them thinking that it could be rigged against them. Further, I believe that Qatar is a much bigger threat than Iraq to Australia making the 2010 World Cup. Qatar is prepared to do anything to get there. The Uruguayan coach got sick and left so the bought the French guy who was coaching United Arab Emirates.

Sydney 1 v Roar 1

First up, it was a funny thing to see Sydney celebrating their kick minute goal. They were playing for equal first, their attack-attack-attack hadn't worked...

Shannon Cole is both a star and a thug. But picking on Charlie Miller, gotta hand it to him for guts. However, I think he rode his innocence a too much.

Matt Mundy. Anymore stars you're keeping for a rainy day Frank?

Oh and Robbie Kruse played - Cole fouled him every time he got the ball.

Melbourne 4 v Perth 0

It is one thing for a coach to go public with a rave on poor team performance. It is another for the owner to do it. Guys, a tip, it makes things worse. Who signed off on the budget and the player acquisition strategy?

Newcastle 2 v Wellington 2

Hey guys it isn't a holiday up here. Two penalties to Wellington saved them. When you think of the pens that the Roar haven't been given...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell update

When you watch a lot of games at different levels of expertise your perceptions of a sport changes. People play football for different reasons. The older you get, the more it is about recapturing or even rectifying your youth. Righting real or imagined wrongs or taking otherwise missed opportunities.

Woody Allen said 'I don't want to become immortal through my work. I want to become immortal by not dying.' And I'm with him. However, for many football players it is their ambition, their driving force to make some form of mark. Some lasting reminder. Even though many English Premier League players are immature in many ways, sustaining excellence is what they are about.

An acquaintance of mine (do you like that saying? it is almost Dickensian) Malcolm Gladwell is preparing the release of his next book. It is going to be called Outliers: The Story of Success. Malcolm and I were born in the same country in the same year, his family emigrated to Canada and mine Australia. The promo for the book says:
Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.
Of course I am interested what this very insightful person has to say about 'what it takes to be a great soccer player.' We did briefly discuss football, but at the time it wasn't his great passion.

Many football players, particularly the young who start because their parents want them to play sport, aren't going to make their mark through football. However, youth football has so many other benefits. It gets them away from the computer for a start. It may give them their first disciplined approach to exercise. For some it is their first shot at a way out - either as a distraction or the creation of opportunities - of a bad family life. For all, it trains in decision making, a skill they need no matter what they do.

In the A-League, I see young people who think they may make it, journeymen who have accepted that they like playing but they aren't going to, people in their mid-twenties who are still trying to go further (Socceroos or Europe), and older people (they are all under 40 so not really old) for whom either this is the best way for them to make a living or love the sport so much that they just can't give it up.

I have in my mind a blog with the working title of 'The Red Mist Descends'. I'll write it one day. It is about the people who play sport to control their mind or whose mind takes over under intense physical activity.

Anyway, I have got to go put my Gladwell pre-order in...

Friday, October 03, 2008

The arc of a Super Diver: Adelaide 3 v CCM 3

This game left Cristiano and Matt Simon both at the top of the A-League goal count on 5. But it is Simon who is the real find and should be in the Socceroos. Every time he gets the ball he looks like he can create opportunities for his team. As stated before, his physique hints at what may be possible for football in Australia if more young people with an AFL body-type could be tempted into the sport. Simon got in behind the Adelaide defence to win a penalty on the right. Then ran the ball from the middle of the half circle outside the penalty area to the left - drawing the A-League's best goalkeeper and scoring from an acute angle. Almost a mirror of his effort against the Roar in earlier rounds. Quality.

For me, Cristiano is at the other end of the spectrum. He is quite prepared to fling himself into the air to win a penalty or free kick. With the same haircut and whistle from the Melbourne v Roar game last week, the ref was fooled by Cristiano's dive on 5 minutes, clearly the ball had been kicked and Cristiano through himself into the air. I think when the ref reviews this match he will be given a few different view for the next time Cristiano faces him. Short sighted.

Frank Farina said in the Courier Mail today:

'Big Sash was one of our better players last season and seems to be doing an admirable job for Adelaide.' page 119

Well he doesn't play for the Roar anymore. Probably because he was down the bottom end of the pay and picked fights with his team mates. But Adelaide are paying in that he is suspended for their first ACL semi.

Adelaide were up 2-0 at half time and Cristiano made it 3-0 on 50 minutes with a poachers goal. Then a few substitutions and some mistakes from Eugene Galekovic and it was 3-3. Adelaide just ran out of petrol. Teams that haven't played them in this condition will think themselves unlucky.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Paradise Club Moore: Socceroo squad

Football Australia kindly sent me the Socceroo squad before it was announced. Unfortunately, I didn't get to read it till I got home, after it was announced.

So I could see Moore was in. For a while I have thought that 'Moore for the Socceroos' was all about contract negotiation - which is currently under way for him. We also know, because he said so tonight, the Pim wants Moore in the squad and he 'will look at him'. Moore probably will play on 15 October, my guess.

From the Roar's perspective we have already had Frank Farina saying that Pim shouldn't select Moore for 15 October if he is going to sit him on the bench. I think the Roar want the publicity of Moore in the Socceroos. But they don't want to do without him.

I think it is interesting that Miron Bleiberg is mailing brochures to all A-League players and particularly the 95 off contract next year. I think Miron would have been interested in Moore but not as the marquee. Miron now knows that A-League teams are built from the back up but he also knows that very few kids nag their Dad to take them to see Moore. They nag their Dad to see Kruse, Zullo and Minniecon and these guys are way cheaper than Moore. Which is why it is interesting to hear Miron say that the Roar is paying some players more than they are worth. The Roar probably thinks they have to to stop them going to Gold Coast. But I do see his point and it makes sense in the light of all this press about Moore for the Socceroos.

It reminds me of a Robert Redford film The Candidate in which the Redford character stands for Congress to get publicity for his left wing views. He gets way more support than he expected and got elected. The film ends with Redford saying to the people who put him up to standing 'what do I do now' - and they just walk away.

Anyway, Moore, Tiatto and Miller are all mates and they live on the Gold Coast. Maybe they wouldn't mind a bit of competition for their services.

Anyway, anyway, Moore played the best I have ever seen him play against Melbourne. So whatever is going on, tonight I am happy. But he doesn't have to play for the Socceroos. I don't think they need him.