Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spagnuolo to Leave

The big news this week for Adelaide United is that the Flying Mullet, Jason Spagnuolo, is set to leave the club after this season in search of more game time elsewhere.

Good luck to the young fella, he was great to watch in full flight tearing opponents apart on the wing, but it's clear that form has eluded him of late and he needs to do whatever he can to get his career back on track.

His run to set up Romario's only goal in an Adelaide shirt will be etched into my memory for a long time. It will be sad to see him go.

OK that's it from me for now, I'm off to Melbourne (which is, incidentally, a rumoured destination for Spags), back on Monday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Go, Diego, Go?

Diego's future with the Reds is looking a little shaky at the moment, according to this article from FourFourTwo. Despite interest in his services from other clubs in the A-League and Asia, AUFC management is yet to offer the midfielder a new contract for the 2009-10 season.

Diego brings a lot to the team: he's comfortable on the ball and has great awareness, vision and range of passing. When he has the ball you know he's not going to give it away cheaply. He's one of the A-League's true playmakers, and when he's playing well the team generally plays well. If there is a criticism that can be levelled at Diego, it's that he blows hot and cold - his excellent form throughout the Champions League campaign, for example, has been followed by a period of relative ineffectiveness.

Obviously, if the price is right, Diego will go elsewhere. And fair enough - he has to look after his career. The question is whether Adelaide can adequately replace him if this eventuates. Kristian Sarkies does not have the presence to command the midfield. Paul Reid is a real box-to-box player who can make things happen, but perhaps lacks Diego's composure and awareness. Fabian Barbiero is starting to show some real signs of quality, and may be able to step into the Brazilian's boots in controlling the midfield, but needs more time to show off his abilities. Unless Adelaide have lined up another classy and experienced playmaker to fill his position, I think it would be negligent to get rid of Diego. Make the man an offer, AUFC.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Adelaide 2-0 Sydney

Goals thanks to JayFCAK47

Last night AUFC finally made their way back into the winners' circle thanks to goals from Ognenovski and Dodd, but it was a bit of a strange match. Adelaide started off looking pretty out of sorts and disinterested - not helped by the fact that there was no recognized striker on the field, with Dodd leading the line and Diego sitting behind him. The crowd (a disappointing 9,500 ish) was similarly sluggish, with Hindmarsh cold as a flat white from the Bean Bar on Gawler Place (yes I have issues) due to a nasty wind coming straight off the arctic tundra of the western suburbs.

Sydney actually had the best of the play for the first part of the match, with a nice little piece of interplay passing between Corica and Aloisi being a standout in my memory. This all changed on the stroke of half time though - Adelaide won a free deep on the right hand side of the pitch, the much-maligned Sarkies stepped up and delivered a beautiful cross to Oggy's big ugly head, which directed the ball into the back of the net. Lovely.

After the break Adelaide came out firing on all cylinders. Sydney's game took another turn for the worse when McFlynn was sent off for (apparently) abusing the ref. No doubt it will be seen as another reffing 'controversy' - mostly because it was Sydney on the receiving end, but it looked fair enough to me. This is what I saw:
  1. McFlynn goes down in a tackle.
  2. He hobbles off the pitch to get some treatment. His knee is quite clearly fucked, he can't walk, there's no way he can continue playing (although he would probably still be fit enough to win a contract as Adelaide Utd's new marquee player).
  3. Play continues.
  4. Hold on a second, who's that dickhead lying on the pitch behind play in a Sydney shirt? Surely not McFlynn?
  5. Ref walks up to him, has a few words, shows the red card. From a replay I saw later, it looks like McFlynn either calls the ref "fucking shit" or a "fucking cheat".
  6. Kosmina develops a stomach ulcer.

What a fucking cynical thing to do, coming back onto the pitch and having a nice lie down when it's obvious that you're unable to play any more. Abusing the ref is never a sensible decision, either.

Anyway, after Sydney went down to ten men Adelaide stepped up another gear: Cassio came on for Sarkies, and we started dominating the left wing. Jamieson is a much, much better player when he has the Pocket Calculator to play off. Aussie Gyawe replaced Diego, who had a decent enough game but lacked the urgency that we needed to really punish the boys in baby blue. Cristiano came on for Alemao a little later, and immediately made a huge difference (an actual striker on the park! Imagine that!)

By this stage AUFC were pretty much toying with Sydney: the second goal came when the Spawning Salmon himself took advantage of Beau Busch's demonstration of 'how not to play in your defensive box' and poked the ball home - the contest was all over. All that was left to do was for Jamieson and Cassio to keep on destroying Shannon Cole's confidence for a little while, then for the ref to blow the final whistle and send the fans home windburned, hypothermic but happy.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Rebecca Wilson Bites Back

Here is today's column in the Daily Telegraph, in which she refers to (almost) universally-respected commentator and pundit Simon Hill as a 'feral soccer fan', and questions his abilities as a journalist. I'm not quite sure why she singles out Hill, though, because her column has been pretty much derided from most corners of the sports media.

To be fair to Wilson, she has copped a huge amount of abuse over the past week in responses posted on mainstream news sites and football fan forums, ranging from people taking a dig at her journalistic credentials to inexcusably misogynistic and degrading comments about her gender and physical appearance. Even SBS's own Godfather of Football, Les Murray, wrote a scathing blog on The World Game site in which he made reference to Wilson's 'leathery skin' and 'ironed-on hair'. The offending paragraph now has been amended, but it was stupid and juvenile for Uncle Laszlo (who, to be quite honest, has been slipping for a while now) to stoop to such a personal level. I don't want to know the sort of personal hate mail that Wilson's email inbox would have been flooded with.

Rebecca Wilson stands by her original article. Which is fair enough: she meant what she wrote. Although, funnily enough, she makes absolutely no effort to back up her wild claims in light of all the eminently sensible counter arguments that have been flung her way. All I can say is that rumours of Australian football's death have been greatly exaggerated - of course, we'll have to wait and see whether her confident predictions of the ignoble demise of football in this country actually comes to pass. Somehow, I doubt it.

Here is a fantastic response to Wilson's article, by Kevin Airs on the FourFourTwo site:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Better pathways needed for Indigenous footballers

For decades, Aboriginal players have been making a huge impact in Aussie Rules and Rugby League. According to the commonly held view, they possess skill, creativity and reflex far surpassing the levels of their non-Indigenous counterparts. This is often patronizingly referred to as 'black magic', an innate, instinctive ability characteristic of their race. To my mind, though, it is more likely that these skills flourish in some Indigenous kids, particularly those growing up in regional and remote communities, due to an upbringing which focuses strongly on sport, outdoors activity and the development of high levels of physical coordination from a very early age.

Whatever the reason, Aboriginal players are strongly represented within the stocks of Australia's major football codes, with the notable exception of the round ball game. Why is this? Surely the speed, agility and exceptional technical skill levels demonstrated by Aboriginal athletes, as well as their relatively slight frames, would suit round ball football perfectly? Certainly there are a few currently plying their trade in the A-League - Jade North, Tahj Minniecon and our own fearless leader Travis Dodd - as well as the European-based David Williams and Kasey Wehrmann - but the traditionally urban focus of football in Australia has made it difficult for promising kids in remote areas to get noticed.

Recognizing this, Mark Wakeling, the Director of Football for Alice Springs, has flagged the idea of National Youth League teams playing exhibition matches against teams made up of Indigenous youth players (see FourFourTwo's article A-League Needs A Red Centre for more information). I think this is an excellent idea, and one which ties in well with the new North Queensland team's stated aim to promote and develop football among the large Indigenous population of the region.

A logical extension of Wakeling's proposal would be the inception of a Territory-based Indigenous side actually playing within the National Youth League competition. I have no idea as to whether the talent exists for this side to be competitive, but given the NYL's specific mandate as a development tool for young players, it's something that would be brilliant for the game. Australia is a big country, and football needs to continue to bring its message to as many people as possible.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fyfe a Red?

The Advertiser is reporting today that Sydney FC defender Iain Fyfe is on his way to Adelaide United , although no official announcement is likely until next week. Despite attracting criticism for the occasional game-changing defensive brain fart, Fyfe is generally regarded as a versatile and solid player at centre back or right fullback. In other words, he's the Cornflakes of the Harbour City.

This is bad news for Sydney's back line, which is also having to deal with the retirement of Tony Popovic and North Queensland's signing of Jacob Timpano for next year, but definitely a positive move for Adelaide. With Valkanis unlikely to play on, Costanzo looking slower and older by the minute and Ognenovski the subject of ongoing enquiries from cashed-up Japanese clubs, a new defender is required post-haste. And who fits the bill better than Fyfe:

  • He's a local boy, and used to call Hindmarsh home (not literally of course, but he played home games there with Adelaide City)
  • His rugged good looks make the laydeeeez crazy, and it's always good to get laydeeeez involved in the game
  • He's skilful enough to hold down an A-League starting berth
  • He's not skilful enough to demand huge wages
So, welcome home, Iain.
Also, please let in a few goals on Saturday night.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rebecca Wilson v Football

Last Saturday, following Adelaide United's midweek loss to Gamba Osaka in the Asian Champions League final, Daily Telegraph columnist Rebecca Wilson delivered an article that can only be described as a hatchet job on Australian football. According to Wilson, Adelaide's "embarrassing performance" shows that there are deep cracks emerging in soccer's "carefully constructed masquerade".

She goes on to claim that the Australian game is stodgy and slow in comparison to the fast, skilful style played everywhere else, and paints a dismal picture of Australia as a third-rate football backwater, with ignorant fans oblivious to the fact that the rest of the world is decades ahead in terms of youth development, style, and technique.

Of course, she has a point, to a certain extent: the quality of play in the A-League and lower levels of domestic football is not as good as it is in many parts of the world, and Australia doesn't exactly churn out players like Argentina or Spain. As though we're not already aware of the difference between Lionel Messi and Ruben Zadkovic (hairstyle, for starters).

What's missing in her article is any sort of context. She makes direct comparisons between Australia and the Netherlands, a European footballing power that has been at the very forefront of tactical and technical development for four decades, without acknowledging the fact that Australian football has made huge strides forward in the past five years or so. She complains about the standard of the A-League, which has been in existence since 2005, compared to the Japanese J.League, which was formed in the early 1990s and is composed of clubs with huge financial resources to spend on players, coaches and youth development. In short, she takes a big swing at Australian football without bothering to look at the bigger picture.

At best, Rebecca Wilson's article is clumsy journalism; at worst it's a thinly disguised ambush on the round ball game, a swift and opportunistic kick in the guts following the code's 'slip-up' in failing to conquer Asia at the last hurdle. Nothing new, of course - Australian football fans are used to articles of this type appearing every now and then (see the excellent Das Libero for other examples of 'soccerphobia'). It keeps us on our toes, ever vigilant to the fact that although we have pushed our way into the sporting mainstream there are still some who find our presence unwelcome.

An Inspirational Moment

Thank you, Andy Harper, for this memorable piece of commentary.

Seriously, that call is going to go down in history.

What a magical night though.

Welcome to The Spawning Ground

Welcome one and all to my little place on the web. Here I hope to regale you with stories, observations and other interesting tidbits relating to the second greatest football club in all of Asia, and the best club in the A-League that wears a red shirt, Adelaide United FC!