Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Harry Kewell Fit; Tim Cahill & Mark Bresciano Doubts For Australia’s Uzbekistan Clash

Pim Verbeek will wait on the fitness of four players ahead of the clash with Uzbekistan, though Harry Kewell has been declared fit to play.

31 Mar 2009 08:43:37

On the eve of what could be the defining World Cup qualifying game of Group 1, Australia face Uzbekistan with head coach Pim Verbeek citing some injury concerns to key players, though a fit Harry Kewell is ready to go.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference, the man trusted to take Australia to the 2010 World Cup talked about how training had been going and how the luxury of a full week’s preparation has affected the team.

“We have had a great camp so far,” Verbeek said. “The first days we spent trying to get used to the time difference, to give the injured players the time to get ready for the training, to allow the players to spend time with their friend and families as they have not been for a long time in Australia.

“We had some good training sessions last week in Parramatta; it was very good for us.

“We had every player on the field yesterday morning for the first time. I know what I am going to do tomorrow; it all depends on the physical fitness of some of the players who are not in training last week.

“So let’s wait for the afternoon training session and I will make up my mind.”

The Socceroos have had a week’s preparation for the potentially decisive clash and the Australian boss was happy to have that time with his players.

He continued, “That makes a big difference. I have time to find out if a player is really fit enough to play."

The players that are in question for tomorrow’s game are Everton midfielder Tim Cahill, Palermo midfielder Mark Bresciano, Aalborg defender Michael Beauchamp as well as Grosseto’s Carl Valeri.

Can Cahill Last 90 mins?

“Tim Cahill is fit to play the match, the question is; is he is fit to play the 90 minutes?” Verbeek said.

With Tim Cahill a doubt, the former South Korean coach was confident the team could do without the goal-scoring midfielder

“There are 20 other players in the camp; I have enough players to win the game tomorrow.”

Bresciano Wait; Beauchamp/Valeri Doubts

The fitness of Serie A midfielder Marco Bresciano will be decided upon this afternoon by Verbeek, though the Palermo man has apparently trained successfully over the past few days.“

That is one of the players I have to think about after the training session [this afternoon],” Verbeek said.

“He trained on Saturday afternoon for half of the session and 100 per cent yesterday.“

From what I heard this morning, he had no complaints.”

On centre-back Michael Beauchamp, Verbeek was more circumspect as he has both Chris Coyne and Jade North to choose from, while he was still yet to make up his mind on Carl Valeri.

He added, “I will make that decision tonight, and worse case tomorrow morning if I have to wait for the one night rest to find out how the players come out of bed.“Then I know exactly what we are going to do.”

Verbeek Hails Turkey Effect

On star-man Harry Kewell, the Australia boss seemed to indicate that he was ready to play, though he was not giving much away.

“He looks very fit, he is very eager to be part of the team so that’s good,” the Dutchman explained.

“It’s the best Harry Kewell I‘ve seen since I’ve been here.“Physically and mentally I think Turkey is very good for him at the moment“

If he starts yes, I’m sure he can play 90mins - Harry is fitter than ever.”

Con Stamocostas, Goal.com

World Cup Fan-Vs-Fan: Australia - Uzbekistan

Ahead of Wednesday’s 2010 World cup qualifier between Australia and Uzbekistan in Sydney, Goal.com Asia talks to followers of each team

Australia could clinch qualification for South Africa with a win against their opponents. Uzbekistan picked up their first win of the campaign so far last weekend and are going for third place and the play-offs.

Answering the questions for Uzbekistan is journalist Behzod Nazarov while Con Stamocostas gives the lowdown from the Australian camp.


Can Uzbekistan still qualify?

Of course. If you have even a little chance, you must try to reach it and that is what the Uzbekistan national team must do also. I think. The Uzbek team will play the next matches as finals. If our team reaches seven or eight points Uzbekistan will qualify for the play-off stage. But our chances aren't good for the second place in the group.

The team was better in the third round of qualification... what happened?
Opponents weren't strong in the third round. Lebanon and Singapore are improving but they aren’t Japan or Australia. Yeah, we beat Saudi Arabia 3-0 but we lost 0-4 in Riyadh. In my opinion, tactics were wrong against Qatar in Doha. Uzbek team attacked too much from the start.

Was the dismissal of Rauf Inileyev a good idea?

It's a difficult question to answer what happened with Inileyev (best coach of Asia in 2007)? He was fired just because he couldn't get good results in two matches of the fourth round. But Inileyev made a clever and big team in 2007.

How about present coach Kasimov?

Kasimov was the best player of Uzbekistan in his career. The UFF gave him chance to lead national team. It was the right decision because he has all things to become a good coach. If he leads national team for the next three of four years, Kasimov will become successful.

Who has been the best player so far for you?

The best is Odil Ahmedov, I think. He has a great opportunity to play in European clubs. Ahmedov is one of the hearts of the national team and Pakhtakor.

What do fans think at the moment?

Fans always believe in their teams and Uzbek fans are the same. Many fans were angry after the loss to Bahrain in Tashkent but they were out in force for the game at home against Qatar.

Can you win in Australia?

Yes. Australia is the strongest team in Asia. The Socceroos have showed this especially in the fourth round. Playing against Australia is always difficult. If you play in Sydney, it will be more and more difficult. This team has many great players and they have a lot of experience. Kewell, Bresciano and other players take part in big championships in Europe. If we win in Australia, it'll be historical achievement for Uzbekistan.

Which Uzbek player should Australia be careful of?

Odil Ahmedov and Ignatiy Nesterov. I mentioned Odil earlier. What can I say about the goalkeeper? Ignatiy saved his club and national team several times.

Which Australian player is most dangerous?
For Asian teams all Socceroos are dangerous. If I say one or two names, I can cry to Uzbek players: Attention, please, Kewell, Bresciano, Wilkshire are coming!

What have Uzbekistan learned from world cup qualification?

We have learned many things from Australia and Japan. How we should play better, be more careful and make less mistakes. Now our players have great experience from big matches. It will be useful for Uzbekistan in the next qualifying stages of World Cup and Asian Cup

This must be a bit different than the usual play-off drama? Yes but the anxiety, anticipation and excitement is still there. Perhaps the fact that even if Australia win against Uzbekistan, qualification seems uncertain so the outpouring of emotion that swept through Australia like a tidal wave almost four years ago will be postponed until all the results are in and qualification is secured.
Will Australia win?
Yes I believe they will, but Uzbekistan will not be easy. They have come from a morale boosting 4-0 win over Qatar over the weekend. There players can take the confidence from that win. However if Australia play to their own strengths I believe they will be too strong for Uzbekistan.

Is there danger of complacency?
I don’t think there is. Players like Harry Kewell and Lucas Neill have been talking about keeping their minds on the job and so has the coach. The players are experienced and know what they have to do.

Are you concerned about the style of play that has been criticized of late?
Not really, qualifying for the World Cup is more important than style. A winning style is a good style and I’ll take that for the moment. However what happens at the world cup and how Australia play will be important there, if we qualify.

How much do you know about Uzbekistan?

I know that Djeperov is a really good player. I know they have a young squad, I know they missed out on qualifying for the last world cup in controversial circumstances. You can say they are the closest to a European in terms of their style and build. A lot of money has been invested in Uzbekistan football of late. They have been unlucky in some games of this second qualifying round, they are a good team.

Who is their danger man?
I would say midfielder Server Djeparov but their tall striker Farhod Tadjiyev scored a hat trick on the weekend so Australia must watch him as well.

Who is yours?
Everton midfielder Tim Cahill and Galatasaray star Harry Kewell of course. Tim might not play the whole game if he is not fully fit, so in that case Harry looks in good form at the moment for his club, he is looking reborn and I would particularly like to see something special from him.

If qualification is secured, what would you like to see in the next few games?

I would like to see more young players used and a more attacking style of play. Utilising players like Gencleberligi duo Bruce Djite and James Troisi, Hull attacker Richard Garcia and the forgotten man of Australian football, the immensely talented Nicky Carle.

World Cup Debate: Australia Have Unfinished Business

With memories of Francesco Totti's heartbreaking penalty still lingering, the Socceroos have demons to exorcise on the world stage.

On Saturday afternoon I arrived at a park in Parramatta where Socceroos captain Lucas Neil and arguably Australia’s greatest ever footballer, Harry Kewell, were playing around with the kids from the Granville Waratahs football club.

One of the kids was nominated to perform a few tricks for the cameras, so the team surrounded him and started chanting “Darrell, Darrell” as he tried a few keepy-ups before moving into a wonderful seal impersonation, expertly keeping the ball on his head for a few seconds.

It was there that the unveiling of the new Australian Football Awards - where Football Federation Australia (FFA) will recognise players at a professional and non-professional level, as well as volunteers, coaches and referees - took place.The Professional Footballers’ Awards (PFA) were announced as well, the PFA Footballer of the Year and the PFA Harry Kewell Medal, which will be awarded to Australia’s best young footballer.

It was almost a surreal experience. I have watched Kewell live and through a television screen for years; I was there in Melbourne in 1997 when an 18-year-old Harry put Australia 1-0 up early in the game against Iran.Australian fans know what happened later that evening.

If events shape history then that game was the catalyst for the success the Socceroos enjoy now.

Perhaps with memories of that fateful night, the Galatasaray star was cautious when talking about the World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan on Wednesday.

"Strange things do happen in this game and if I have learnt one thing from my career it's to take nothing for granted until its won or earnt," Kewell said.

And don’t Socceroos fans know it?

While all the kids' faces were beaming from joy at meeting their idols, I was struck by just how well-behaved they were. They weren’t being pushy for autographs, and they managed to keep the secret that they were going to meet their Socceroos heroes to themselves.

In fact, as I left the park after the Socceroos had finished with their commitments, it was the parents that got a bit excited - the sight of a mother chasing Kewell in the car park for an autograph will be kept with me for a while.

It’s no surprise to see them go a bit gaga over our Harry.

The Socceroos have been in Sydney since Tuesday and have been preparing for the biggest game of the World Cup qualifying campaign so far.

They have had all manner of media commitments since their arrival in Australia.

When Neill, the West Ham United captain, was asked how the preparation was going, he said, “Preparation has been a bit slow, little bit inconsistent, with various commitments, training in between public appearances but now it’s all been stopped we can focus solely on the game, which is why we are here.

“It’s always good to come back here and spend a bit of time with the public and raising the profile of the game. Now that’s done, the best way to raise the profile is to win the game that could possibly take us to South Africa.”

The one thing I have noticed when speaking to the Socceroos in the last week is their fierce determination.

Players that have stood out for me this week have been Scott Chipperfield, a very relaxed character but also intense when need be.

Luke Wilkshire is the kind of guy that you feel you could share a joke with, and the Australia tattoo on his leg is a sign of his commitment to the cause.

All sorts of weird and wonderful questions are asked during a media scrum, including, “Is there much difference playing at home or overseas with such an important game on the line?”

I sometimes wonder if some of these folk have ever been to a football game.

My question to Lucas seemed to rile him a little bit, though:

“You've got unfinished business after that shocking penalty decision against Italy, does that drive you?”

He paused, shook his head and answered forcefully, “It’s not the reason why I want to go to the World Cup.

“We want to go to the World Cup because it’s the World Cup, to get the chance to play against Italy, Brazil and Croatia again, and try and emulate the mini success we had in the last World Cup, and go one step further and make sure it’s not a fluke.

“We didn’t want get there to go just once and say it was nice and to do it 30 years later.“Every four years we want to get there consistently, bring our rankings up in the world, and be a team and a force to be reckoned with all over, with respect.

”So perhaps that question is old news; Neill has been asked about 'that' penalty for years.

But with the spot-kick by Italy’s Franseco Totti being the last action the team experienced in 2006, you could say that all the Socceroos and their fans all have unfinished business, and I suspect most Australia supporters are eager to see them take care of that business on Wednesday night against Uzbekistan.

Con Stamocostas, Goal.com

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Richard Garcia And Mile Sterjovski Battle To Replace Brett Emerton For Australia

The Hull City and Derby County players are the likeliest candidates to replace Australia's injured star.

Richard Garcia and Mile Sterjovski are set to fight for the honour of starting against Uzbekistan in Australia’s right-midfielder berth, which has been vacated by the injured Brett Emerton.

The Socceroos had vastly contrasting fortunes to the ends to their respective seasons in English football last term.

Hull attacker Richard Garcia played a massive 57 games and scored a cracking individual goal during his team’s 6-1 aggregate victory over Watford during the semi-final of the Championship play-offs. Hull eventually gained promotion to the English top flight for the first in their 105 year history.

Derby, meanwhile, dropped down to the Championship from the Premier League and the 27-year-old was completely frozen out of the first team by manager Paul Jewell.

This season has seen both players have to work hard to retain their place in their respective teams.

Garcia: I Just Want To Play

The 27-year-old Hull City player had to do with limited time on the field as Hull City won six out of their first nine matches, losing only once, and along the way beating Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

However, Hull returned to the relegation pack and the Tigers now lie perilously close to the drop zone, only four points away from 18th placed Newcastle.

Describing his up and down season, the Perth-born attacker spoke at a press conference at Santa Sabina college.

“We still have the belief but things are just not going our way at the minute,” Garcia said.
“Hopefully we can get more wins and get the points on the board that we need.”

When asked how he was handling life in the English Premier League, Garcia talked about the confidence playing in the top flight has given him.

“It’s fantastic, I had a bit of a taste of it when I was younger at West Ham, though not as much as I would have liked,” he said.

“Now I’m comfortable, it’s been really good.

"I’m just happy I got to that level, know I can play at that level and be comfortable at that level.”

The former Hammers player is now looming as a possible replacement for the injured Brett Emerton for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan.

He continued, “At the moment he [national team boss Pim Verbeek] has got me playing on the right hand side of midfield but what he’s got in mind for me I don’t really know.”

Naturally an attacker or right-winger, when asked where he preferred to play Garcia concluded, “I’m not really bothered as long as I play.”

Sterjovski Hails Clough Effect

Mile Sterjovski could also play on the right of midfield during next Wednesday’s crucial qualifier - the Socceroos are hoping to be the first team to secure their place at the 2010 World Cup with victory.

Nigel Clough’s introduction at Derby has seen the midfielder’s fortunes change for the better following Jewell's departure.

With his then-new manager in the stands he produced a great performance against Manchester United in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final, providing an assist that led to a surprise 1-0 victory for the Rams.

The 39-cap Socceroo spoke of his difficult time and the effect Nigel Cough has had on him. “There was quite a long time where I was left out,” he lamented. “I was working hard, I was doing all things that I normally do and for whatever reason it wasn’t happening.“

To get Nigel Clough in was breath of fresh air. He has given me a chance and I’m grateful for that.

“We have a very good relationship; I really like his training and his methods.

“The only thing I would like is to have more game time. Hopefully things will turn round in that aspect, things have improved a lot and I have a good relationship with him.”

When asked about the role former Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek wants him to play next Wednesday; Sterjovski replied thoughtfully, “I don’t know at the moment, I’m working towards getting a start. I’m hungry to play and I love playing for Australia. I’ve got a few days to try and convince the coach to start me.”

When quizzed on his lack of game-time and its effect on his international chances, Sterjovski was realistic. “[It] definitely makes it harder," he said. “I’ve had a few games recently that I’ve played in the past and that will help my cause. We will see what happens at the end of the week.”

I’m A Football Man Now – FFA CEO Ben Buckley

Goal.com's Con Stamocostas catches up with Australian football supremo Ben Buckley ahead of the crucial qualifier against Uzbekistan

Football Federation Australia CEO and former Aussie Rules supremo Ben Buckley says he’s
certainly a football man now, as the Socceroos look to secure a consecutive World Cup appearance at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The former AFL chief operating officer was hired by the FFA in 2006, after former CEO John O’Neil left his post to return back to Rugby union.

In his time as CEO, Ben Buckley has ridden the qualification wave with the rest of the country, with Australia potentially about to become the first team to book its place in South Africa with a win over Uzbekistan on Wednesday.

Speaking exclusively to Goal.com, the Australian football chief claimed to have been engulfed by a game with which he had no previous experience.“

Well, if the level of anxiety is the measure of being a football person, then yes I am one!” Buckley declared.“It’s a bit like being an expectant father; we have sort of been qualifying for the last 18 months and hopefully we can give birth to another World Cup journey.”

With a historic back to back World Cup qualification berth potentially awaiting the Socceroos next Wednesday evening, the 42-year-old Tasmanian summed up the mood in the camp.“

It’s very positive, the atmosphere is exciting, the players know that they are on the cusp of going back-to-back, which is what their goal is and has been from day one.

“It’s the first time we have qualified through Asia.“I just truly believe that the players have been focused from day one; we don’t want to let 2006 become a one hit wonder."

With a crowd of between 50-60,000 expected in the 82,000 capacity ANZ Stadium on April 1, the FFA CEO pushed Sydney residents to support the Socceroos.“

There is no doubt, a big crowd and a passionate crowd and vocal crowd plays a big role,” Buckley continued.“

You might be sitting in the stands but you are assisting the team, and you are assisting them to qualify for the World Cup.

"I would encourage every Football fan that is out there to get along and support the team - don’t by any means think that we are qualified.”

A watchful tone then emerged, as Buckley added to Australia international Harry Kewell’s earlier comments at a press conference on Saturday.

“It can still go very wrong,” Kewell warned.

“The teams that we are playing in the next four games are very good teams, especially the next one [Uzbekistan] on Wednesday.”

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chance For Genclerbirligi's Mile Jedinak To Shine For Australia

The Turkey-based defensive midfielder could have a huge chance to establish himself with the Socceroos against Uzbekistan.

Mile Jedinak could be playing the biggest game of his career next Wednesday night, as Australia take on Uzbekistan in a potentially decisive World Cup qualifier.

The Socceroos could clinch a place at the 2010 World Cup with a victory against the Uzbeks, as long as other results go their way in Group A of the Asian qualifying sector.

Last to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany under Guus Hiddink, Australia could be the first team to secure their passage to South Africa.

And Turkey-based Jedinak is one player who has emerged as a recent contender for a place in Pim Verbeek’s 2010 squad, set to replace injured defensive midfielder Vince Grella next week.

Since securing a move to Genclerbirligi in January, the former Central Coast Mariners midfield man has played every minute of every game for his new club, where he lines up alongside fellow Aussies James Troisi and Bruce Djite.

“So far the competition has been a great step up for me and I’ve enjoyed my time there,” Jedinak said. “I think I have settled in there quite comfortably; I feel right at home which is great.“

One thing I really wanted to do when I got there was to settle down as quickly as possible."

Jedinak was recently singled out by Pim Verbeek in an exclusive to Goal.com, his importance emphasised in the wake of Grella’s absence.

“He is doing well, I need him in the midfield since Grella is not there,” Verbeek said.

Culina Praise

Fellow Socceroo and international veteran Jason Culina also hinted that he and Jedinak could play in the two holding midfield positions that Aussie coach Verbeek favours.

“I think he is good enough to play now; we could possibly play in midfield together,” Culina said.

The 24-year-old Jedinak also returned the praise to his ex-Sydney united team-mate.

He continued, “I admire Jason, I’ve known him now for a while, I followed him in his Sydney United days when I was there as a youngster, watching him train and stuff.”

Turkish Delight

Jedinak also feels he made the right decision moving to Turkey with a place in Verbeek’s World Cup squad a reality.

“You always have the national team in your mind when you make these decisions,” Jedinak said.

“It was a big factor for me; I want to try and play as much as I can for the national team and I knew that moving to Turkey, the opportunity would be a lot greater than if I was to stay in Australia.”

The Genclerbirligi player also said that the presence of his fellow countrymen has made his transition into Turkish football a smoother one.

He continued, “It’s good to see Bruce and James, I’ve known them for a while now.“Having them there was a great thing for me, it helped me settle in a lot quicker, they showed me the ropes and just having them around is good.

“We are always spending time together, it’s always good to have your own people around you.“It’s going good for them, the boys are doing fantastic.”


With Italy-based midfielder Carl Valeri being the other option for the second holding midfield role alongside Jason Culina in Verbeek’s 4-2-3-1 formation, Jedinak realises his starting place is not assured in Sydney.“

It's good to have a lot of competition here, with great players around me,” he said.

“Carl Valeri is the same age as me, we have played in the under-20s together.“Hopefully if I get an opportunity I can cement my place in the team.

"Until then there are players in front of me; I’m not going to look ahead of myself too much.”

Socceroo Luke Wilkshire's Russian Adventure

Australia international and Dinamo Moscow man Luke Wilkshire talks to Goal.com about life in the Russian Premier League

Before the last World Cup, Luke Wilkshire was playing his club football for Bristol City in English football’s third tier, an unknown in football circles in Australia
save for family and friends and folk in Shellharbour and Albion Park where he played as a youth.

When then-Socceroos manager Guus Hiddink included him in his squad for the 2006 World Cup, many fans raised their eyebrows – more were raised when he started Australia’s first group match against Japan.

A lot has changed in football in Australia since that time and Wilkshire is now considered one of his country’s most senior players.

Signing for FC Twente after the World Cup following Guus Hiddink’s instructions to him to find a “proper club”, he enjoyed two successful years in Holland and helped the club to a UEFA Champions League qualifying spot.

Luke next set his sights on Russia and became the first Australian ever to play in the Russian Premier League, moving to Dinamo Moscow in August 2008, playing thirteen games and scoring twice during the second half of the season.

Upon his return to Australia for a potentially decisive World Cup Qualifier against Uzbekistan next Wednesday, Goal.com spoke to him about his rise to prominence at both domestic and international level.

“It’s all been gradual for me, I’ve had opportunities and I’ve taken them,” Wilkshire said. “I’ve learnt and you could say I’ve matured.“Sometimes in football it’s about timing; you’ve got to wait for that opening or that opportunity and take it.

”The Dinamo Moscow man also remains unconcerned about the fact that the Russian Premier League is perhaps not as recognised as the more established European club competitions.He continued, “I think that Russia is now starting to get noticed a bit more and is getting a lot more recognition because of what the national team has been doing, and what the clubs have been doing in Europe in recent years.“

But of course the English Premier League, the Serie A and La Liga [Spanish Primera Division] are the big ones.”Despite the fact that Russia presents a number of cultural challenges, the 27 year-old continues to take changes to lifestyle in his stride.

At the weekend, Wilkshire played a full game during his side’s 3-2 home win over FC Khimki and the presence of snow didn’t dampen the Australian’s spirits.

He continued, “It was quite refreshing! I think the first game the sun was out, it was a very dry day and then we come out on the weekend the snow was there, so it was definitely fresh.“I actually enjoyed it. I’m pretty used to the cold.”

Con Stamacostas and Chris Paraskevas, Goal.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Aussie Boys Are Turkish Delights; Will Socceroos Be First To Qualify For South Africa?

Aussie Boys Are Turkish Delights; Will Socceroos Be First To Qualify For South Africa?
Much has changed since Australia's last friendly international against Turkey, writes Goal.com's Con Stamacostas.

In 2004 Australia played two games against 2002 World Cup semi-finalists Turkey. In Sydney the Socceroos lost 3-1 and in Melbourne 1-0.

The football landscape is vastly different now.

That was the Frank Farina era and most of the crowd were Turkish supporters. These days the Socceroos play to full houses and enjoy enthusiastic support. And at the moment, Sydney and Australia are buzzing as the country looks towards a history-making second World Cup berth in a row; and potentially the honour - outside the hosts - to be the first country to qualify for South Africa 2010.

Sitting next to Ben Buckley at the FFA (Football Federation Australia) headquarters on Tuesday was Consul-General of the Republic of Turkey Mr Renan Sekeroglu.

Both men were there to announce an annual event that will see football matches played between the two countries in either Turkey or Australia in alternating years, starting with two Under-16 matches to be held next month in Canakkale and Gelibolu (Gallipoli), Turkey.

“Turkish people love football passionately, it’s a national past time for many Turks, and the fact that there are many Australian players in Turkey, including Harry Kewell, is of course another important aspect of the relations in football between our countries,” Sekeroglu said.

“I believe they are doing a very good job; they are also football ambassadors in Turkey.”Kewell, Mile Jedinak, Bruce Djite, James Troisi and Micheal Petkovic are all playing in Turkey this season - the importance of these players cannot be understated to the national team, as Goal.com has reported in the last couple of days.

Kewell, Jedinak and Petkovic will be joining the Socceroos squad tomorrow and while Djite (now a confirmed late call-up) and Troisi are on the stand by list, they both know they are in Pim Verbeek’s World Cup plans, as Goal.com exclusively reported.

When asked about how the Turkish public perceives Australian football, Sekeroglu was glowing in his praise.

“Of course the Turkish concept of Australian football was maybe much weaker if you asked me that question two years ago, but now that we have a footballer named Harry Kewell who plays for Galatasaray I think they have a much better idea, not only because of Mr Kewell’s contribution but the other players in the league as well.”

Looking towards next Wednesday's World Cup qualifier, Buckley was asked if a win against Uzbekistan would make up for the Socceroos' unspectacular showings of late.

“Well, if you are talking about some recent performances where we have won three games and draw one and are sitting top of the table, I think that is a pretty good outcome to what you might perceive as some not-pretty-good performances,” the FFA chief executive said.

“We won’t be satisfied until it's mathematically impossible for us not to qualify. That is what we are hoping to achieve and winning next week will be a step in the right direction.

“It doesn’t mean that we will have qualified, it certainly means that we are in a very, very good position to qualify, but I won’t be satisfied, and I know the coaching staff won’t be satisfied, and I know the players won’t be satisfied until it’s mathematically over the line.”

When asked about the responsibility to entertain because of fan disenchantment, Buckley was adamant.

He said, “I think the coaching staff's responsibility is to qualify, and to make sure we participate at the World Cup in 2010.“That is our absolute priority - it’s our only priority, and the style and the tactics is left up to the coaching staff on the day, to achieve that outcome.”

Con Stamacostas, Goal.com

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Australia And Turkey On The Playing Field Of Peace

The two countries have reached an historic agreement that will see their shared past celebrated upon the pitch..
24 Mar 2009 05:46:52

Football Federation Australia (FFA) today announced a new annual event to emphasise the strong links between Australia and Turkey.

The deal will see football matches played between the two countries in either Turkey or Australia in alternating years, starting with two mens’ Under-16 matches to be held next month in Canakkale and Gelibolu (Gallipoli), Turkey, on April 24 and 26.

“Everyone knows Australia and Turkey has a long and shared history, this announcement builds on our shared history in a very unique way for football in particular,” said FFA CEO Ben Buckley.

Buckley said that the date of the annual football event was selected to coincide with Anzac Day (25 April) for Australia and National Sovereignty and Children’s Day (23 April) for Turkey.

The plan has the strong support of both governments, with Australia’s Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, and Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, expected to attend one of the matches.

A special reception will be hosted by the FFA in Turkey and both the Australian and Turkish governments will attend those events.

Buckley continued, “This kind of announcement is what makes football special, the fact that two nations can come together, two nations with a shared history, a proud history and a history now that is built on a peaceful basis and one of great mutual respect.”

Next year Turkey will visit Australia, the teams will be decided upon the availability of both men’s and women’s teams on annual basis.

Regarding the prospect of both the senior men’s national teams playing, Buckley said, “Of course it would be a fantastic opportunity for our man’s national teams to play in and around those dates at sometime in the future, that’s what we’ll be looking to do.”

Building For The Future

Australian Institute of Sport coach Jan Versleijen will take an under-16 team to Europe for a series of matches around that time, which will include a Turkish-born immigrant who will line up for the Aussies - Sydney FC youth player Kerem Bulut.

“This is the future of Australian football, and hopefully the core of that team will go on to bigger and better things as we look to qualify for the 2014 World Cup and of course to host and play in the final of the 2018 World Cup,” Buckley said.

Sitting next to him at FFA’s new headquarters on Oxford Street was the Consul-General of the Republic of Turkey.

He opened with remarks about Australia and Turkey’s special relationship:
“We are all aware the two countries enjoy a unique friendship, fraternity, no doubt the common past we shared on the battlefields of Gallipoli contributes highly to this fraternity.

“Anzacs and other Turkish soldiers who fell there could not have known that within a few decades, because of honouring the dead on both sides, this campaign would bring Turkey and Australia closer together.

“Therefore the Turkish government and the Turkish FA are proud to announce these matches.

“When Mr Buckley and his colleagues at the FFA approached our consulate a couple of months ago we were delighted.

“We look forward to being inaugural hosts of the event with the two matches on April 24 and 26.

“We believe that these matches will add another dimension to the friendly and unique relations.

“The fact that many Australian players are playing in Turkey, including Harry Kewell, is another important aspect of the football relations we have, they are football ambassadors in Turkey."

Australian visitors to Gallipoli in 2009 wanting to support their team can do so on:

April 24: Canakkale Stadium, Ataturk Cad, Canakkale. Kick-off 14:00 local.
April 26: Gelibolu Stadium, Gelibolu (Gallipoli). Kick-off 14:00 local.

Russian Premier League: Sunday Round-Up, Monday Preview

Goal.com takes a look back on the last of the weekend action in Russia and looks ahead to CSKA Moscow's clash tonight...

Sunday’s action in the Russian Premier League saw Zenit record their first win of the season. There were stalemates in the other two games though, as champions, Rubin Kazan were held at Spartak Nalchik and FK Rostov and Lokomotiv Moscow also shared the points in their encounter.
12:00 Zenit St Petersburg 2-1 Saturn Moscow Oblast

Because of a tasteless and offensive banner that was paraded at the last home game of season 2008, Zenit’s first home game was ordered to be played behind closed doors by the Russian FA. A huge slur on Russian football legend, Lev Yashin, by Zenit fans was the reason. Last week Zenit fans also set fire to several thousand seats at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

A rare goal by defender Ivica Krizanac opened the scoring for Zenit in the first half, before Marko Topic levelled for Saturn.

In the 67th minute, substitute Fatih Tekke received a great cross on the right and scored with a diving header.

There was time for Anatoliy Tymoschuck to miss a penalty but Zenit held on for the win.

14:30 Spartak Nalchik 0-0 Rubin Kazan

Last week, champions Rubin Kazan thrashed Kuban Krasnodar 3-0 while Spartak Nalchik lost 1-0 away to Terek Groznyi. Prior to kick-off, Rubin were considered favourites.

A crowd of 16,000 at the Spartak Stadium saw a game with no goals as both sides drew a blank.

Rubin are only the third non-Moscow team to win the championship and they can look forward to a UEFA Champions League debut in 2009/10. However, they will be disappointed they did not pick up the three points in this game.

17:00 FK Rostov 1-1 Lokomotiv Moscow

The team from Rostov hosted Lokomotiv Moscow, rounding out the last game on Sunday.

A crowd of 14,500 at the SKA SKVO Stadium saw both teams share the spoils as a 90th minute goal from Lokomotiv’s 22-year-old midfielder Dennis Glushakov cancelled out Branimir Petrovic 40th minute strike.

Both teams have now recorded two draws each from the first two games played.Monday

Preview17:00 CSKA Moscow – Tom Tomsk

CSKA Moscow are one of the favourites for the championship this year and are coached by former Japan and Fenerbahce boss Zico, who has signed a three-year contract. The 55-year-old replaced Valery Gazzayev, who quit the club at the end of last season after steering them to second place in the Russian league and the last 32 of the UEFA Cup.

Zico, regarded as one of Brazil's greatest players, led Bunyodkor to the Uzbek league and cup double in his first season and guided them to the Asian Champions League semi-finals last year.

CSKA have one of the strongest squads in the RPL and top striker and Brazilian international Vagner Love has agreed to stay another year to work under his fellow Brazilian.

Yuri Zhirkov was named Russian Player of the Year in 2008 and there are reports that Chelsea are closing in on a deal for midfielder.

The 25-year-old played an influential role as Russia reached the semi-finals of Euro 2008, too.

Zhirkov's CSKA and Russia team-mate Igor Akinfeev was named as the best goalkeeper while another CSKA player, 18-year-old midfielder Alan Dzagoev, was chosen as the nation's most promising youngster.

CSKA Moscow have already added silverware to the cabinet this season as they won the first trophy of the 2009 season. They beat the reigning league champions Rubin Kazan 2-1 after extra-time in the Super Cup final a fortnight ago.

They will be heavy favourites to beat Tom Tomsk after thrashing Saturn 3-0 last week.

Con Stamocostas, Goal.com

Monday, March 23, 2009

Zenit Edge Saturn Moscow In Front Of Zero Fans

A heavy pitch - despite the fact that clubs' could be fined £30,000 for sub standard pitches - and an empty stadium greeted Zenit St Petersburg and FC Saturn Moscow Oblast this afternoon, but hosts Zenit still managed the win...

Because of the displaying of a tasteless and offensive banner about football legend Lev Yashin at the last home game of season in 2008, Zenit’s first home game was ordered to be played behind closed doors by the Russian FA. Zenit fans also set fire to several thousand seats at the Luzhniki stadium last week, so maybe this was just as well.

The empty stadium carried a rather comic setting at the beginning of the game as Russian music was played in the background, the harmony ringing around the empty stadium, with no fans to sing along.

Zenit were hoping to win their first home fixture of the season, with interest in European competition at an end after being knocked out of the UEFA Cup by Udinese. Saturn Moscow, or Aliens as they are sometimes known, were seeking to absolve last week’s 3-0 loss to a Zico coached CSKA, with a much better performance this time around.

First Half
The first clear chance of the game fell to Zenit in the second minute. A free-kick was whipped in from the left by Viktor Faitzulin and Russian international, and possible Chelsea target Striker Pavel Pogrebniak, met the ball, but headed over the bar.

It didn’t take long for the goal to come, as only six minutes later Zenit scored from a cross, this time on the other side of the pitch. It was a rare goal by defender Ivica Krizanac, who hit an overhead kick after the goal keeper saved well from Pavel Pogrebniak.

In the 13th minute, the exciting Portuguese international striker Danny, who scored ten goals last season for Zenit, picked up a good Pavel Pogrebniak ball, made a great run down the left side and shot across the goal, just past the right hand post.

It was all Zenit for the first twenty minutes, but Saturn started to hold the ball a bit more as the game wore on.

Central midfielder, Anatoliy Tymoschuk, was pulling the strings in midfield and Saturn just giving him too much space.

With ten minutes to go until half-time, Saturn scored a goal against the run of play. Dick Advoccat's booming voice could be heard arguing with the fourth official about an earlier decision that when against his side, as Saturn equalised through Striker Marko Topic.

Replays suggested that Yeremenko, who crossed the ball, was offside in the build up.

Zenit then had a great chance to take the lead again, but midfielder Igor Denisov only met Saturn defender Ruslan Nakhushev, who flew into orbit to block the ball.

Second Half

Just like the beginning of the first-half, Zenit controlled possession as Saturn sat back, happy to play on the break.

Stalemate was inevitable. And substitutes inevitable. Saturn brought on Nigerian Solomon Okoronkyo and Zenit introduced a striker, Fatih Tekke.

Saturn's former Benfica midfielder, Andrei Karyaka, then brought out a good save by the keeper.
Then, in the 67th minute, Zenit's Turkish striker Fatih Tekke received a great cross on the right and scored with a diving header.

Aware of the need to hold onto the lead, Dick Advocaat took off winger Danny for Igor Semshov, Zenit’s fourth game in eleven days, beginning to take its toll.

With fifteen minutes to go, Zenit got a penalty. Marko Topic the scorer for Saturn, turned villain as he foolishly brought down the right-back Aleksandr Aniukov, when the ball appeared to be going out harmlessly out for a goal kick. Bayern Munich target Anatoliy Tymoschuk put the ball past the left hand post.

Zenit, however, held on for the win.

Con Stamocostas

Russian Premier League: Saturday Round-Up

Goal.com runs through the action from Russia's top flight, on a day when the favourites were humbled...

22 Mar 2009 10:04:30

11:00 Krylya Sovetov (Samara) 1-0 Amkar Perm

Kyryla Sovetov hosted the early game on Saturday, starting off the action in round two of the Russian Premier League.

Krylya Sovetov Samara triumphed over Amkar Perm, in front of 12,000 fans at the Metallurg Stadium in Samara

Jan Koller, the lamp-post like Czech international, scored in the 58th minute to give the home team victory. The win sees them sit atop of the table, alongside Dinamo Moscow on six points.
Their season has started well after last week’s away win against FK Tom Tomsk.

Amkar Perm have only one point so far this season, following a draw to FC Rostov last week; a slow start by them but it's still early in the campaign.Krylya Sovetov Samara finished sixth in 2008, and are the surprise package so far in 2009.Watch out for players like the Czech international, Jiri Jarosik, who has played for Celtic and Chelsea, Brazilian defender Leiton Silva and highly rated Russians, Yevgeny Savin and Oleg Ivanov.

12:00 Kuban Krasnoda-1- 0 Spartak Moscow

A crowd of 26,000 at the Kuban Stadium saw Michael Laudrup’s Spartak Moscow lose away to Kuban Krasnoda by 1-0.

Unfortunately for Spartak, their best chance was missed by the Brazilian striker, Alex, who failed to convert a penalty in the 21st minute.

That miss proved costly for the Championship favourites, as Dramane Traore, the 26-year-old Malian who is on loan from Lokomotiv Moscow, scored what would eventually be the winner for Kuban in the 31st minute.

The team, also known as the Cossacks, got the season under way in earnest with their first points of the season, and the home fans, the Kubantsy, will be happy with such a great result against Spartak Moscow.

One point from two games is not the start Spartak would have anticipated for the 2009 season; after only two games, the pressure will be on coach Michael Laudrup. 13:15

Dinamo Moscow 3-2 FK Khimki

In a high scoring game, Dinamo Moscow, the oldest football club in Russia, triumphed over FK Kimki by 3-2.

In front of a crowd of 10,523 at the Noviye Khimki Stadium, Dinamo claimed their second win in a row; both of them at home.

Meanwhile, FK Kimki have played two away games and have only earned one point from their travels.

Dinamo’s 18-year-old striker, Aleksandr Kokorin, was the first to score for the home side; netting in the 21st minute.

Only six minutes later, Eidar Nizamutdinov got one back for Khimki, making the score 1-1.

A penalty, converted by Russian international striker, Alexander Kerzhakov, gave Dinamo back the lead. However, close to half-time, FK Khimki again equalised with Serbian defender Miodrag Jovanovic getting the away team back on level terms.

The deadlock was broken in the 60th minute of the second-half, when substitute defender, Aleksandr Dimidko put Dinamo 3-2 ahead. And that is how it stayed to the final whistle; Dinamo getting the three points and a share of the lead at the top of the League. 15:30

FC Moscow 0-0 Terek Groznyi

No such result for FC Moscow though, as they could only manage a scoreless draw with Terek Groznyi to round out Saturday’s matches.The team from Grozny, situated in the Chechen Republic in Russia, amassed a total of total of seven yellow cards during the game, with FC Moscow accruing three. This gives some indication of the type of game it was.
Con Stamocostas, Goal.com

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Russian Premier League Preview: Matchday Two

Russian Premier League Preview: Matchday Two

Goal.com previews all the action from the second matchday of Russia's top-flight...

The Russian Premier League may take a backseat to the other leagues in Europe as far as coverage goes, but with Guus Hiddink’s team progressing to the semi-final stage of Euro 2008, interest in Russian football around the world has definitely piqued.

Adding to the exposure is Dick Advocaat’s Zenit St Petersburg; winners of the UEFA cup last season as well as Russian players like Andrey Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchencko creating a buzz in the English Premier League.

The big questions being asked for this coming RPL season are:

Can Spartak Moscow coached by former Denmark great Michael Laudrup, challenge last season’s champions Rubin Kazan?

Will Zenit St. Petersburg rediscover the winning form they showed during the UEFA cup win last season?

With more money than ever in Russian football, thanks to the several oligarchs investing large amounts of roubles, lately there has been an influx of talented and exciting foreigners - all set to grace Russian pitches this season.

And with this you can be sure there will be no shortage of quality in the Russian Premier League.

Fixtures; Matchday Two (all times local)
Saturday March 21
11:00 Krylya Sovetov - Amkar Perm
12:00 Kuban Krasnoda- Spartak Moscow
13:15 Dinamo Moscow - FK Khimki1
5:30 FC Moscow - Terek Groznyi

Sunday March 22
12:00 Zenit St Petersburg -Saturn Moscow Oblast
14:30 Spartak Nalchik - Rubin Kazan
17:00 FK Rostov - Lokomotiv Moscow
Monday March 23
17:00 CSKA Moscow – Tom Tomsk

Krylya Sovetov - Amkar Perm
Last round, Krylya Sovetov lost 1-0 to Tom Tomsk. Amkar Perm drew 0-0 with FC Rostov. Not the most famous names in Russian football, nonetheless both teams will be looking to gain three points in this game.

Kuban Krasnoda - Spartak Moscow
Michael Laudrup’s Spartak will be looking for a win after drawing with Zenit St Petersburg last week. The game ended in an entertaining 1-1 draw, but was marred by excessive crowd violence. On the field, Russian international Ivan Saenko scored for Spartak in only the second minute and Pavel Progrebnyak hit back in the 17th minute for Zenit.
Dinamo Moscow - FK Khimki
Last week Dinamo Moscow beat FC Moscow with a last minute goal at home;, Kerzhakov got the header to give the home side the win. FK Khimki got a good draw away from home last week against another Moscow side, Lokomotiv.
FC Moscow - Terek Groznyi
FC Moscow will be looking to bounce back after disappointingly conceding a last minute goal to Dinamo Moscow last week. Terek Groznyi, meanwhile, won 1-0 at home to Spartak Nalchik and will look to continue their good start.

Zenit St. Petersburg - Saturn Moscow Oblast
Zenit will be hoping to win their first home fixture of the season, with interest in European competition at an end. Saturn Moscow will seek to absolve last week’s 3-0 loss to CSKA.

Spartak Nalchik - Rubin Kazan
Champions Rubin Kazan thrashed Kuban Krasnodar 3-0 last week; Bukharov getting a double and Semak getting the other. Spartak Nalchik lost 1-0 away to Terek Groznyi and they will want to kick start their campaign with a win at home

FC Rostov - Lokomotiv Moscow
The other Moscow club Lokomotiv Moscow had to settle for a 1-1 draw with FK Khimki. They will look for a win away against FC Rostov, who drew 0-0 with Amkar Perm and perhaps have their sights on a home win this time round.


CSKA Moscow – Tom Tomsk
CSKA had a comfortable 3-0 score line in their favour as they beat Saturn Moscow away last weekend. Russian international Sergei Ignashevich netted two goals and Alan Dzagoev got the other. Tom Tomsk lost 1-0 to Krylya Sovetov at home last they will hope for better result this time. CSKA, no doubt, will be looking to ease the pain of a UEFA Cup exit with some domestic vengeance.

Con Stamocostas, Goal.com

Friday, March 20, 2009

Is the Premier League Future Unwritten?

Is the Premier League Future Unwritten?
For a while there the Premier League season looked like it was going to throw up a new champion-Liverpool, a new member of the champion’s league elite-Aston Villa and rags from riches story- Hull, and there was even talk of Tottenham making the top six.

While Liverpool have cut down the Red Devils lead at the top down to four points. Manchester United still has a game in hand and you would say the Champions are still favourites to win the title again, and even win a crazy five if things fall in place.

The loss of Vidic to suspension is a blow; however manager Alex Ferguson has a skilful, experienced and deep squad to choose from.

Liverpool looked like dare I say it “the Liverpool of old” when they smashed United last weekend four-one. Liverpool would be higher up the ladder except for too many draws, and bad results against lower ranked teams. Losing brilliant striker Fernando Torres for a period earlier this season was also a big blow to their Championship ambitions.

Aston Villa was hanging in the top four all season, except that loss to Tottenham last week allowed Arsenal’s to leap frog them giving the top four an all familiar look.
Villa’s players look tired, they have only used 19 players this season, and they have one of the smallest squads in the premier league. Competing in four competitions including Europe with such a small squad is going to take its toll.

Villa has lost their power, lately the ball gets to Ashley Young a lot, with not a lot of help around. James Milner has gone off the boil, while Emile Heskey can be frustrating at time; John Carew has been injured and Gabbie Agbnonlahor needs a goal for his confidence, I gather he likes playing with Carew more than he does Heskey.

Losing Martin Laursen was a big loss; replacements Zat Knight and Curtis Davies have looked shaky at the back. Luke Young is a right back and has been playing at left back and Cuellar is more of a central defender than a right back.

The Gareth Barry transfer saga earlier in the year when he almost went to Liverpool probably didn’t help Villa’s cause either. At times they looked mesmerising with Young, Barry, Agbonlahor, Milner and even Carew playing some nice football and scoring some great goals. Ashley Young’s winner against Everton comes to mind.

Owner Randy Learner will probably regret not investing more funds into bringing new players if Villa misses out on a Champions league birth this season.
The Liverpool-Villa game on Sunday will be crucial in deciding the makeup of the top 4, well at least for a week anyway.

Meanwhile at the bottom of the table:

With 9 games remaining for Hull, despite the amazing start they made at the start of the season were they occupied the nose bleed section of the table for a while, it felt refreshing to see the underdogs do so well.
They won six out of their first nine matches, losing only once. Along the way they beat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium,
So what went wrong?
I recently saw an interview with the head coach of Hull, Phil Brown on Sentata,
When asked why Geovanni was benched. The answer was that Brazilian didn’t train hard enough.
He said:
“that he should train like an Englishman, and play like a Brazilian”.
But isn’t it the case if you train like an Englishman, you play like an Englishman? If you train like a Brazilian, you play.......

Tottenham are the perennial underachievers, it evokes tales of every rock and movie star that died too early, so much unfulfilled potential and large amounts of nostalgia and yearly Carling Cup finals appearances.

After not winning any of their first eight games it was no surprise to see Juande Ramos was sacked, strangely he was given the role at Real Madrid soon after. The strange return of prodigal twins Jermaine Defoe and Robbie Keane still sees Spurs only Six points away from the drop zone. Harry Rednapp is a good coach and will probably seem them come out of it; the side just has too many quality players to go down you would think.

Football has the ability to throw up some inspiring and unbelievable results, and it can also deliver dull and inevitable winners and losers as well. Will Liverpool be able to catch Manchester United, Can Villa snatch a Champions League spot? Hull and Tottenham have faded but will they fade away?
Tell them Ringo:
“Tomorrow never knows”

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Australia Need Mile Jedinak – Pim Verbeek

Could the Turkey-based destroyer be the new heart of the Socceroos' midfield?
Australia boss Pim Verbeek says that he needs Turkey-based midfielder Mile Jedinak for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan at ANZ Stadium on April 1, after he was included in the Dutchman’s 22-man squad.

The former South Korea coach spoke at a press conference in Sydney this afternoon, where in a week’s time he will start to prepare his side for the next step on their path to South Africa 2010.

Verbeek told Goal.com immediately after the conference that he had been impressed with Jedinak’s form for club side Genclerbirligi.The 24-year-old seems to be an important figure in the Socceroos manager’s plans, and the absence of Blackburn Rovers midfielder Vince Grella has added weight to whispers that he may be chosen to play from the start.“
He is doing well, I need him in the midfield since Grella is not there,” Verbeek said.The 53-year-old is also looking to the future; with Jedinak’s fellow Turkish club team-mates Bruce Djite and James Troisi getting regular game time, the Dutchman seems to want to protect their place in the team.
He continued, “Troisi and Djite are on the stand-by list.“I’m not willing to take those players away from their clubs because we are happy that they are starting players.
“To take them away from their clubs if they have no chance to make the final 18 will be difficult for them.“They know what they have to do, we are in contact with them, they know they are in the spotlight.“
We think it’s better for them to try and make their place in the team, rather than take them away for 10 days and then have them sit in the stands.”
Con Stamacostas, Goal.com

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Show Me the Money!

The loss of the A-League best players overseas will continue to happen unless Football starts eating at the big kids table.

Let’s look at the TV revenue numbers:
* AFL $780m for 5 years, or $156m per year
* League $500m for 6 years, or $85m per year
* Football $120m for 7 years, or just over $17m per year

Foxtel has gained the most from the previous Liberal Government’s xenophobic attitude to football, who were on the record as saying that football was not part of Australian mainstream culture therefore was not on the anti-siphoning list - sports that must be on free to air Television due to their importance to the national interest.

The deal at the time was struck before Australia’s mighty World Cup appearances, which elevated the Socceroos to arguably the nations most loved and admired team.

The people involved with the deal at the time were John O’Neill and Matt Carroll, who are now both working for the rugby union.

Some have suggested that John O’Neill’s best work for rugby came while he was working for the Football Federation of Australia, having negotiated a deal that took the FFA’s biggest asset away from Free to Air and onto Pay TV, which has only a 25% take up of the Australian population at the moment.

On the eighth of April 2008, there was an announcement that the World Cup qualifying matches for the Australian national team, the Socceroos, will be shown on free-to-air television after the Australian government agreed to add them to the anti-siphoning list.

The move will not come into effect until 2014, however, after Communication’s Minister Stephen Conroy accepted Football Federation Australia’s pleas that to do so now would cost them millions of dollars in penalties from their existing deal with Fox Sports.

Roy Morgan recently released figures of all the major codes in this country.

The following is a comparison of attendances, per ‘football’ code [season; code; matches, excl finals; total attendances; average attendances]

2007, AFL, 176 6,482,281, 36,831
2007, Super, 23 489,716, 21,292
2007, NRL, 170 2,689,449, 15,820
2007,-08 A-League, 84 1,227,486, 14,613

The below table shows the total supporters for the major ‘football’ codes across the different regions of Australia:

AFL 8,044 million
NRL 4,372 million
A-League 2,590 million

If you look at the figures of the AFL comparably with the amount of people who support the NRL, the figures are quite good for the NRL. Especially when you compare them with what football is receiving.
Leading media buyer and analyst Harold Mitchell reckons that “soccer should … be a $100 million a year sport by 2013. It could be equal to the AFL by then, if it is properly presented”.

So the Australian Football community has to wait till 2014 before it can watch the Socceroos on free-to-air, the biggest asset the FFA has is hidden away on pay tv. For only those lucky to afford it, have the privalege of watching Australia's only true national team, one that represents all Australians.

The poor TV deal that was signed for seven years is holding back the A-league recruitement, Aussie clubs cannot compete with Europe and Asia and nothing will stop this exodus until someone at the FFA says:

"Show me the money!!!!!"

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sydney FC, Dreams and Rock n’ roll

My first ever Sydney FC game was on Sunday 28th of August 2005. It was Dwight Yorke’s and Sydney FC’s first ever match in the A-league, the gates had to be opened because of the rush of spectators, and after that day Football in Australia and my life was never the same again.

If you believe in omens and synchronicity then this first match had it all.

Mark Bosnich is the reason I became a football fan. During the 1991 Youth World Cup in Portugal I remember seeing the Aussie side reach the semi finals.

I distinctly remember Les Murray commentating and yelling “Malaoneeeeeeeey” as Brad Maloney scored from outside the box against Russia during one of the Aussies group games.

There are two images from that tournament that have left a permanent imprint on my brain. They are: Paul Okon’s 30-40 yard runs he would effortlessly make out of defence, distributing the ball with ease and class; the other was Mark Bosnich saving everything that came his way.

I recently saw footage from that tournament where Mark Bosnich saves from his future team mate Dwight Yorke.

So it came to be that when Mark Bosnich came to play club football I started supporting Aston Villa. I also made a mental note to follow any future Aussie that was to play in Europe.
You see I am the son of two immigrants. I loved Cricket and Rugby League, but seeing that team during the 1991 under 20’s youth World Cup, most of whom where first generation immigrant children, seeing these kids play so well and represent their country, gave me heroes who I could identify with.

So back to the first Sydney FC game; its halftime Sydney has scored first with an amazing header through Dwight Yorke (a hero of mine also until he moved to the red devils) and I go for a walk to get some air and soak in the atmosphere of a plus 30 thousand crowd around me.
I notice the drummer from the band You Am I from a short distance (probably my favourite Aussie band) and I walk up to Rusty and say:

It’s good to see the local Sydney rock community supporting Australian football”

His reply:

“Well Aston Villa is my favourite English team and Dwight Yorke was one of my favourite players, it’s amazing to be here and see him in the flesh”

I looked up star struck and tried not to get too excited, I have a tendency to punish well known people with my lingering and excitement.

We chatted for a few minutes and I went back to my seat for the second half.
Since that game I have given up my corporate job to pursue my dream of becoming a football writer and I also play drums in a band now.

Rock n’ roll and Football

I have played and watched a few gigs around Sydney recently and did you know there are lots of committed Football fans who play in bands?

I saw Mogwai at the Enmore theatre last week (Kevin missed them) and they had Celtic scarves and a screen that showed rolling images of Celtic players, and even our own Scott Mc Donald was featured.

I saw Danny the drummer from the band Youth Group (Forever Young fame) at the 2005 World Cup qualifying game against Uruguay and again at the Agin Court when Australia beat Japan at the world cup.

I also saw Bambino Koresh (Tom Morgan, formerly from the Lemonheads, plays bass) the other week the singer Leticia Nischang is Argentinean and went to school with Xavi the current Barcelona’s midfielder’s wife.

Rob Child, bass player from the epic Sydney band Magic Lunch box has been a member of the Cove from day one.

Robert F Cranny has written recorded and performed with Sarah Blasko and is a big Socceroos and Everton fan.

Not forgetting Leo (Dead Etiquette) who helps run Sonic Factory rehearsal and recording Studio in Belmore and bass player of Red Owl and guitarist of the Martymis. He is also a big Sydney FC and Socceroos fan.
lso it’s not uncommon to hear classic rock n’ roll song melodies sung as Football chants worldwide.

My favourite Sydney FC chant is:

“Brosque, Brosque will tear you apart again”, sung to the melody of Joy Division’s Love will tear you apart.

The White Stripes Seven Nation Army riff is sung everywhere around the world, you know how it goes: bo, bo ,bo bo, bo boo.

At Galatasaray games, “Harry, Harry Kewell” is sung to the Melody of Boney M’s Daddy Cool.

It’s not unusual for both Football and rock n’ roll to meet each other, as they are both the greatest from of ecstasy you can experience.

My band is: http://www.myspace.com/charltonweston

Please tell me your stories of Football and Rock n’ Roll!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rose coloured glasses come off

The Socceroos 1-0 loss to Kuwait makes everyone look bad. Pim was right about the A-league, but did he have to be that right?

Ignoring stats about games played, goals scored, goals conceded, which save for the results the Socceroos have enjoyed against Qatar; watching the recent performances by the European Socceroos and the A-League Socceroos, Pim Verbeek has shown that sometimes Football is a very difficult game to play.

It seems the players are finding it difficult to pass the ball, run with the ball, and shoot the ball and all the other stuff like positioning and thinking and playing.

The mistakes of the past are being repeated, but this time the FFA is paying a higher price for the privilege.

Using local based players to qualify for international tournaments have cost Australia in the past. The loss to New Zealand during qualifying for the confederations cup in 1999 and 2003 was a symptom of the cashless governing body at the time; who could not afford to bring their best players from Europe, some players even paying their own way.

With great respect (meaning, I’m not going to say you where crap, but I’m thinking it) to the players that played last Thursday night, it was the the lack of respect shown by the governing body to allow a team of such inexperienced players to play such an important international football game that I lay the blame squarely at.

The lack of respect was also shown in the limited preparation time that the Socceroos trained under.

Kuwait had been training for six weeks playing games against New Zealand sides. The Socceroos had 3 training session together. After the game the players where quoted as saying that they did not know much about the opposition.
A quick phone called to Ricki Herbert the NZ coach would have helped.

The English Premier League was on a break and there are plenty of Socceroos on the bench in Europe that could have come back.

If this game was a world cup qualifier I’m betting that at least 15 European players would have been back.

I fear part of the problem is the perception that our big boys only want to play the big games; World Cup qualifiers, Champions League, FA cups etc.

Playing games against Asian countries for a little know comp known as the Asian Cup is not going to make the players who have played in the world cup and the highest level in Europe feel motivated.

Australia is still a guest in the Asian region with word in Asia that Australia is still considered an unwelcome guest from some quarters in Asian football
The Aussies knocked Kuwait out of the Asian cup qualifying last time. Kuwait sent their strongest team and prepared themselves appropriately.

Australia in Asia is considered to be number one enemy, like England is to Europe.
There is a perception around Asia that the team is loud, cocky and arrogant; lower ranked Asian are teams desperate to get one over the Aussies, joining Asia has meant our much loved underdog tag has gone.

Pim was giving hints that the A-league players where hopeless ever since he turned up. I have a feeling Pim could see the ship was about to sink, and his comments where a smart rue from him, so he could get some of his overseas troops back.
Hopefully his bosses will have learnt the lessons.

Those preaching about Australians technical deficiencies would have fed on this loss like manna from heaven.

Craig Foster oddly reminds of the Dean Moriarty character in Jack Kerouac’s “On the road”.
Yes, yes, yes we need to be better at playing football. Yes, yes, yes we need to be smarter. Yes, yes, yes we need to learn tactics and technical stuff.

Craig is right as usual about this stuff. However I fear the more you tell players they are tactically and technically naive and hopeless long enough they will believe it.

The positive stuff that came out of that game was the great sight of the Canberra public and the folks from the surrounding areas’ supporting the night.

A Canberra team for the A-league I say............

The FFA can’t keep promoting the Socceroos and stringing the public along by putting out second even third string Socceroos teams.
In my humble opinion, the lack of respect, knowledge, preparation and lack of passion for the cause was Australia’s downfall. These are the things Pim Verbeek has been praised for in the past.

Australia will always be inept tactically and technically sometimes, but our biggest strength was nullified because occasionally as a Football nation we think we are better than we are.

A cup of hubris anyone?

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Card For Every Occasion

IF YOU didn’t know that referee Matthew Breeze who gave out two red cards during last weekend’s A-League Grand Final had the nick name “Hallmark” you know now.

Early in the Grand Final, around the 10th minute Cristiano, a Brazilian, jumps for the ball and elbows Rodrigo Vargas, an Australian-born with Chilean descent, in the head.

These two have been fighting all season. This time there was a connection and blood poured out. Kevin Muscat remonstrated loudly to the referee (remonstrating perhaps is his biggest strength) and Hallmark puts the yellow back in his pocket. Has a little chat with the linesman and he pulls out a red card instead.

It does not matter what type of football fan you are; whether you love the game passionately, or if you're one of those band wagon parochial types, or the common euro snob that ignores your local side and prefers to follow red teams from the North of England, we can all agree that at some point we all collectively hate referees.

Have you heard the tragic story of the Seville player Antonio Peurta who in 2007 collapsed on the field during his teams Spanish league match against Getafe? Tragically he died 3 days later.
A few days later, Seville played another match and one of his team mates scored a goal and lifted his shirt to pay respects to his departed team mate, and the referee, free from any human compassion, gave him a yellow card.

No wonder we hate them.

In the Grand Final Tom Pondeljak scored what was to be the winning goal for Melbourne Victory and he pulled his shirt over his head to celebrate and "Hallmark" gave him a yellow card as well.

Why does the correct decision in football just feel plain wrong sometimes?