Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to fake it as an A-League supporter

Originally posted a the GGArmy website  link

Now that you have heard the news that Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton have signed for Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC you probably just remembered that Australia has a local competition called the A -League. You remember the A-League? Don’t you?
Remember you went to see Dwight Yorke in Season One? Remember the football community all joining together as one where all football religious beliefs were put aside for one harmonious night?
Side by side Euro snobs in Man United Jerseys sat next to local sycophants dressed in Sydney Olympic Jerseys.
Remember as you walked to the SFS to the first ever A-League game asking your friend “Is Dwight Yorke the one that went out with the English model Jordan and wasn’t he also involved in a naughty video with a former Socceroo?”
So now that your short term interest in football has piqued again here is a guide I call ‘How to fake it as an A-League supporter’.
My previous Australian supporter guide ‘How to fake it as a Socceroo Supporter’ helped hundreds  if not  two or three would be football fans. So If Rebecca Wilson can fake it, so can you!

Who are The Players?
Harry Kewell used to play for Liverpool. Brett Emerton used to play against Liverpool. Yes that’s right Liverpool. Got your ticket yet?

Should I join a supporters group?
If want to see Harry Kewell be wary of the Melbourne Victory protest movement. Victory fans like to do a lot of protesting. So some games you could be involved in a silent protest, a banner protest or my favourite: the turning you’re back on the game protest. They don’t have the nickname “tards” for nothing.
What Clothing Should I wear?
Sarcasm alert! You should wear Premier League club colours — there is nothing cooler than wearing a Manchester United jersey at an A-League game.
After deciding not to wear you ironic Che Guevara t-shirt, you decided to shit all over the A-League with your colonial inspired soccer shirt.
Bandanas? Keep them at home hipsters. Actually hipsters should stay at home period. Gen-Y should probably skip football altogether. There are periods where there is not much happening. Modern football is mired in midfield mediocrity and now and again someone might shoot but that is because they smoked pot and forgot the coach’s instruction to keep shape and pass it only left or right. The pace of the game will fuck up you’re A-D-D wiring, but you probably have your iPhone to play with when you get bored so actually you might be okay after all. But just leave the bandanas at home.
What do I chant?
Now that Kevin Muscat has retired you are probably thinking the "fuck off Muscat" chant will be consigned to the chant bin. But buck up little camper, Musky is still going to on the bench as assistant coach.

If you are Sydney fan it will be a real treat to use the “what a waste of money” on an opposition player  for once.

And what about booing? Yes that joy that only an overweight and uncoordinated member of the public can get for booing a professional athlete who has played the game since they were two years old.

Who Should I blame if my team loses?

Blame Rebecca Wilson? Maybe, but the more obvious target is the referee... hang on… make that the coach. Usually your team will lose because the striker missed a bunch of chances or the defender fell over at the wrong time. An actual goal scored by teamwork or individual flair is rare, so if your team loses because of the others team’s skill, you are obliged to ignore this and again go for the referee or the coach — either is acceptable. Note: Never admit the other team was better than yours.
What about the Coaches?
The best teams do not need coaches to win, while the poorer teams need coaches to stop the best teams winning. This is modern football, but the most important decision a coach can make is what they will wear.
If the coach wears a suit he is a tactician with very complex ideas about moving one player a little bit upfront and one player a little bit behind. Most tacticians don’t really like football at all. They don’t really like footballers and they hate the fans even more.
What they love seeing is a plan in action. They would rather the game be won through their coaching acumen than players individual skill and passion.
The other kind of coach is the one in the tracksuit. He is a motivator rather than a tactician. At half time he will give players the hair dryer treatment, a kick up the back side and then he will say things like “you can do it” or when you get in front goal “shoot farken”!
Football Jargon
Be careful if you are a new fan. A level of faux sophistication has entered the game. Words and phrases like tactics, inverted wingers, fake number nine's and holding midfielders have infected the football discourse and it can be confusing.
Here are two of my favourite football words:
Striker: Used to be a really important part of the team. Often teams used to have two, sometimes even three strikers on the pitch at the same time. Today the striker is becoming extinct. More than half the world’s strikers have disappeared off the planet only to be replaced by a holding midfielder.
Wall: The only real job in football is the wall. You will always hear a commentator say that “the wall did its job”.
So there you have it the complete guide to How to fake it as an A-League supporter. Bring on Season 7!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Generation Who? Hungary for Success

first published @ GGArmy website
Over the following months, will sit down with a number of young Australians plying their trade both in the A-League and abroad, filling you in on the next generation of Socceroo stars. First up we speak to Sasa Macura, an Australian currently cutting his teeth in Hungary

Australia’s next group of young footballers have been given the glamorous title of Generation Next. Players like Mathew Leckie, Ben Kantarovski and Tommy Oar are all well known in the Australian football community. Take a look at the latest Aussies Abroad data base though and you will notice that 59 of the 170 players plying their trade overseas are under 20 years of age. Many of them have moved overseas without ever playing in the A-League. I like to call this group of players Generation Who?
One player on the list is Sasa Macura, playing in Hungary for MTK Budapest II in the B II East division.

I was curious not just about Macura, but also the other names on the list I’ve never heard of. Why are all these young boys overseas? Are they any chance of playing first team football? Does the FFA know they exist, and lastly why play in the Hungarian second division over the A-League? Was Pim right? Is training in Europe better… (you know the line)?
Well I was wrong about the second division. When I asked Macura to give me a synopsis of his year so far I learned that the 19 year old defensive midfielder, born in Knin, Croatia, and who had attended Narrabeen Sports High School, was actually signed as a first team player.
“I came to MTK Budapest at the end of pre-season in August. I was signed as a first team player and I am on the roster for the first team and I was training with them. However because of my age I need to be playing, and it’s great because MTK have a youth squad that play in the Hungarian second division,” explained Macura.
“The team mainly consists of very young players. In the second division we are currently fifth, and have only lost four games this season. I have played in every game and I have scored one goal. “
MTK Budapest has a great history in Hungarian football. It last won the league in 2008 and finished sixth in the last campaign. Márton Bukovi is one of the club’s most famous names, and along with Béla Guttmann and Gusztáv Sebes, was part of a group of three Hungarian coaches who pioneered the 4-2-4 formation. It was later adopted by national coach Sebes, himself a former MTK player.
It was this system that Bukovi, together with Péter Palotás and Nándor Hidegkuti, used to pioneer the crucial deep lying centre-forward position.
During the early 1950s these MTK players helped Hungary become Olympic Champions in 1952, Central European Champions in 1953, defeat England twice and reach the 1954 World Cup final.
A number of young Australian players have made their breakthrough in the first team for their European clubs this season and Macura was one of them.
“For the first team I have started and played in the League Cup, also in the Hungarian Cup I came on as a substitute, and started a game in the quarter finals. I have been on the bench many times for the first team in league games.”
“Also In January, I went with the team to Antalya, Turkey for the winter pre-season, and played against Slovakian FC Senica, Russian FC Rostov and Serbian Fk Jagodina which was an amazing experience.”
So how does one make the journey from Narabeen to Budapest? Macura filled us in.
“I attended Narrabeen Sports High School, and completed my HSC in 2009. I started off playing locally with Dee Why Swans F.C and then moved to NSW representative clubs Northern Tigers and Apia Leichardt Tigers. My last club [in Australia] was Bonnyrigg White Eagles.
“I was offered a trial by Miodrag Pantelic, the Sporting Director of Serbia's Super League team Vojvodina Novi Sad. Vojvodina offered me a contract, however, at the same time, through my manager I was offered an opportunity with Hungarian side MTK Budapest. Being 18 years old, I saw this club as a perfect start to my career because they focus on young players, and have also produced a number of great players who are playing in top European clubs.”
In March earlier this year there was a training camp held in Duisburg, Germany for the young Australians playing overseas. I asked Macura if he was approached by anyone at the FFA?
“Unfortunately I was not approached by the FFA, it would have been a great experience to be at the training camp however it’s their choice and I respect that. Being eligible to represent Serbia, Croatia or Australia, I would have liked to be part of the Young Socceroos.”
A lot of the kids from Balkans cite their father as their biggest influence and Macura is no different.
“To this day it’s my dad. He played football during his time and taught me from a young age. Apart from that, during my time at Northern Tigers I was greatly influenced by two great coaches, Anton Ivancic and David O'Keefe. Both of whom have a great deal of knowledge and passion for football.”
Getting used to the professorial environment in Europe can be tough, especially compared to the level of football found in Australia. Macura discussed this idea with, and his answer demonstrates his dedication to the sport.
“For me, it was always about football and I was and still am willing to give everything for it, so it wasn’t hard to get used to the routines of everyday football. I love the professional feeling at the club and how they go about the daily routines from eating correctly to making sure you are getting enough sleep to complete each training at a maximum. I guess a difference from Australia would be the great deal of discipline and commitment to training.”
A number of players, like Macura, are going straight to Europe and bypassing the A-League. The young Australian notes that he was not approached by a top flight club in the country, but does see that route as a possible option.
“I was fortunate enough to be offered a trial in Europe and I told myself that if it didn’t work out I would pursue an A-League contract. My motivation for staying in Europe is to one day play in the Champions League or Europa League, which I believe will have a great impact on young players leaving Australia. I was not approached by any A-League clubs, however I was told if I stayed playing in the New South Wales Premier League I had a great chance to join an A-League club. But instead I moved abroad.
“I think the A-League is improving every year, it’s attracting some well-known players, and it’s played in world class stadiums. The standard of play can even match the European leagues.”
When asked about his impressions of football in Hungary, the young midfielder gave a positive response.
“Football in Hungary is mainly technical, the ball is played on the ground and the teams look for a passing game; the playing level can match to other European leagues without difficulty. The top clubs in Hungary have a great fan base with some die hard supporters, the local Budapest derby between Ferencvaros and Ujpest attracts a lot of attention, sometime for the wrong reasons, but the passion for football is very high among the Hungarians.”
Hungarian football seems to be on the rise with their youth teams getting some excellent results. And according to Macura, that was one of the reasons he moved there.
“Hungary wants to push for the European and world stage and has started off focusing on establishing young players. Although not being Hungarian, I see this as a perfect opportunity to be part of their goal and improve my football as much as possible, and it’s the reason I came here to pursue my dream and my passion.”
Wanting to get an idea of a week in a life of professional football player in Europe I asked Macura for an insight into life as a youth team player for MTK Budapest, both on and off the pitch.
“As a youth player at MTK, I train with the first team. Training is every day and time varies depending on what the coach wants to do. Sundays are mostly free depending on if the games are played on the day. Off the field, I relax at home, Skype with family and friends and explore the city from time to time, which is beautiful. I’m also doing my best to learn the language which I have to say is hard, however I’m doing my best to learn it.” finishes the interview with Macura by asking him for the best piece of advice he has ever received from a coach.

“To leave it all on the field. Be yourself and believe in yourself!”
There is a large number of young Australian footballers playing in teams you have probably never heard of, living in far off cities. The question for these players is, are you part of Generation Next or Generation Who? Only time will tell, but after making the first team in his first season in Europe, has the feeling Macura belongs to the former..

Monday, August 8, 2011

Tommy Oar Young Socceroos Interview

Here is the unedited extended version of the interview i did with Tommy Oar. Here is a link to the GGArmy website where it is edited.

   1) Congrats on making the Young Socceroos squad. First of how dare the excitement levels and do you now owe your club FC Utrecht a big favour as they must have wanted you to stay?

 Thank you. It is very excitement to be heading to another world cup! Last time in Egypt the results didn't obviously go the way we planned, but if you look at how far everybody has progressed in the last 2 years, and the players that our current team has, I really think we can surprise a lot of people this tournament. As for FC Utrecht, the club agreed with the Young Socceroos staff months ago that I would be going to this tournament. My first goal is to help Australia do as well as possible at the world cup and then return to FC Utrecht and take things from there.  

2       2) During your time in the A League the spotlight was on you people were saying things like the next Harry Kewell how did handle that pressure and expectations at such a young age?

You can't take notice of what people are labelling you because you can easily get carried away, and things can also turn around very quickly. I didn't take any notice of that I just try to concentrate on my own game. Although it is flattering to hear these sorts of comparisons, I never took them too seriously as they weren't coming from my coaches, or the people whose opinion really mattered to me at the time. 

 3) The last couple of steps you have taken have been quite large going from A- league to Socceroos to now playing In Europe .How did you manage each step up? 

Everything has happened extremely quickly for me since the last U-20 World Cup in Egypt, I was fortunate to be given the opportunities to get me into the position I am now. I think no matter which level you are playing, the basic principles stay the same. You just have to worry about your own game and the reasons why you got their in the first place. 
W  4) What can you tell us about playing for FC Utrecht?

 I think FC Utrecht is a fantastic club, and the perfect place to develop. The Dutch League is quite technical and the training sessions are very technical based. The fans are really great and It's a very optimistic club in terms of what they achieve, as they showed last season in the Europa League. I have really enjoyed my time so far at FC Utrecht.

 5) Have you had time to reflect about your first season in Europe? Playing against Liverpool and getting a taste of first team action must be making you thirst for more?

 My first season at FC Utrecht was a really big learning curve for me. I was lucky enough to get game time against Liverpool, PSV, Twente and also Celtic. I think playing against teams of this calibre taught me a lot about the areas of my game which need improving and also was just a fantastic experience in general. I think I am much better prepared for this year after these sorts of experiences. Hopefully after returning from the World Cup in Colombia I can break into the first 11.

6)   6) Having your Brisbane Roar teammates what can you say has been the most positive and most negative aspect of having a bit of Brisvegas with you in Holland?

Although fairly unique, I think it was a great thing for all of us to have each other move to the same club at the same time. Half the battle in European Football is moving to a new continent away from your family and friends, and to have some familiar faces and friends around all the time is a massive help. 

7)  7) Which teammates have impressed you the most and which opponents have caught your eye?

Dries Mertens, a player who recently left FC Utrecht for PSV Eindhoven was fantastic. He is also a Left Winger, although he plays pretty differently to I do, and I think I learnt a lot from his style of play.

8)  8) How do the FC Utrecht fans treat you? Can you walk down the street or do they leave you alone?

The fans have always been extremely supportive to us three on the field and on the training ground. Utrecht is quite a large city, so off the field I doubt many people know who we are. 

9)  A lot of Aussie young players talk about the training regime being tougher in Europe. Can you give us an insight into a week at FC Utrecht?

 Last year we were involved in three competitions, the League, the Cup and the Europa League. If you compare this to Australia where it is only the League it is a much more intense schedule. The training load I have found is not too dissimilar, but I think that you literally play twice as many games as in Australia (throw in International commitments aswell) so it is much more physically and mentally demanding. 

10) Have Kerem Bulut and Bernie Ibinie given you ideas about where they like their crosses? It seems a pretty imposing strike force?

I have been to a few tournaments with Kerem Bulut now and he has a fantastic eye for goal. On top of this, he is strong, quick, and aggressive which are all traits which go a long way. I have not seen as much of Bernie Ibinie, although from what I've heard he has impressed a lot of people and is a handful for any defender. I think they will both, along with Sunderland striker Matthew Fletcher, be great assets in Colombia for our team. 

11) Plenty of attention will be on this tournament what do you hope to get out of it?

I think our first goal should be to qualify for the second round. I think it is silly however to concentrate on this, and we should just take each game as it comes. Our first game against Ecuador will set the tone for the tournament and is a crucial game for our team in order to progress to the next round. After being at the last world cup and seeing the standard, I think we definitely have the team that can surprise a lot of people. 

12 ) You are playing teams like Spain, Ecuador and Costa Rica what are the team’s chances of getting out of the group?

Spain's credentials obviously speak for themselves. However I think the strength of our team is the harmony within the group, which showed during the qualifiers and was a key reason behind our success. This counts for alot, particularly in tournaments like this and I think everyone will be up for the challenge of playing such a high calibre team. After playing Costa Rica at the last world cup, I think we can expect a mobile, attacking minded team, and we will have to be at our best to get the right result against them.
As for Ecuador, they are quite an unknown quantity, particularly at altitude. We have had some experience against South American opposition over the last few years and I think this will be valuable for us going into our first game of the tournament

13) How are you away from football? What kind of things do you get up to? Has Utrecht got a decent night life?

Utrecht is a uni-city with an extremely young population. It has many bars, restaurants and is very lively during the warmer months. It also is only 20 minutes from Amsterdam. I am quite a music fanatic, so I spend a lot of time going to gigs in Amsterdam or in Utrecht. Besides that I enjoy playing the guitar, playing FIFA with my friends, going out for dinner. . . just the usual things really. 

14) Favourite team and player?

 Growing up, my brothers always used to support Leeds United because of the heavy Australian influence. I guess with that, naturally, my favourite players were always Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell

15 )I have always been fascinated with how athletes stay on the path? With many distractions in this modern world how did you focus on football when others where partying and doing other things?

 I think what it always comes down to is the realisation that there is only a certain number of years in your life where you can play football, It is a very short career. Once you have finished up there is plenty of time to catch up on doing all the things you missed out on Having said that I think everyone needs a balance to there life. You can't just lock yourself away and only play football. It's healthy to have other things in your life as well. 

16)  Major influences in your football career.

The biggest influences in my career have for sure been my family. They have always helped me in any way they can to make life easier for me and hence help me on the field.