Monday, March 23, 2009

Australia's young Turks

Jedinak scores for Genclerbirligi

The World Game website is currently running an article about the young Australian players at Turkish club Genclerbirligi and the culture shock that they have had to face when settling in to their new environment in Ankara. The ritual slaughter of a goat to bring luck at the start of the season (and a second one when the luck wasn't forthcoming), the muezzins' call to prayer five times a day from countless mosques around the city, the food, the traffic.

Currently there are three Australians at Gencler: Bruce Djite , James Troisi, and Mile Jedinak. Like 1. FC Nuremberg a few years ago, Genclerbirligi has emerged as a 'home away from home' for Aussies abroad, with Nick Carle and Josip Skoko also having played there.

Other than football, there really aren't many other sports that offer players such varied cultural experiences. Ben Somerford's excellent 'Euroos' blog includes a pretty comprehensive-looking list of the Australian players plying their trade overseas. What's striking is not just the number of players making a living outside Australia, but the diversity of destinations - from Australia's footballing 'homelands' of England and Scotland to countries on the periphery of Europe like Romania and Turkey, to Asian countries like China, South Korea and Indonesia, to the United States. If and when these players are called up to represent their country, or return to play in the A-League, or turn to careers in coaching, administration or punditry, their experiences with tactically diverse football cultures and their contacts overseas can only help to enrich football in this country.

In line with our history as a nation of migrants, Australian football has through the years become a melting pot of disparate styles and mentalities. Waves of new arrivals - first from the British Isles, then from Greece, Italy, the former Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe, and now from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, have helped inform the football we play. Add to this the vital experiences being gained by Australians playing in tough leagues overseas and the concerted push by the FFA to add Dutch coaching, technical and tactical knowledge to the mix.

The young guys playing overseas, like the trio at Genclerbirligi, are the next generation of Socceroos. The trick for Australia will be to effectively harness the positive aspects of all of the diverse structural, cultural and technical viewpoints feeding into our football culture. Vive le difference.

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