Thursday, May 28, 2009

Half time in Rome

It's five a.m. and, very much contrary to my usual sleeping rhythms, I'm awake. For good reason though - it's the European Champions League final. Barcelona v Manchester United.

I haven't been following European football all that closely of late, due to the advent of the A-League and my increasing (but completely natural and healthy) obsession with Adelaide United. But I've always considered myself a Barca fan, and the way this match is going reminds me what I like so much about the Catalans. They play great football, and they genuinely try to play a beautiful game.

Man U are a great side as well, but the way they play isn't on the same level as Barcelona. They seem to have a philosophy of 'get it to Ronaldo and we'll see what happens.' Barca, on the other hand, play as complete unit. You'll find plenty of commentators frothing about the style and sexiness of their play, so I'll try not to.

As I see it, this game is the best team in the world versus the best player in the world. I don't want to jinx the final result but I'm hoping that the best team pulls through.

Then I'm going back to sleep. If only I didn't have to work today.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

DJ LMO in tha house?

As the off-season progresses, Adelaide fans are naturally starting to get a bit antsy about new signings. We have a squad of 16 going through the motions of pre-season training at the moment, and, needless to say, we'll need to get some new blood in before the A-League kicks off in August.

With that in mind, Adelaide have been having a good look at ex-Ghana international and Cheltenham Town striker Lloyd Owusu, who has just completed a successful season on loan with Brighton-Hove Albion. And he's been having a look at us. He's been in town to check out the club and the facilities, and has been giving the impression that he's ready for a change from the sodden pitches of English League One football. Or, he could just be out here for a free holiday.

Either way, I hope he signs. His football ability notwithstanding (he averaged a goal every two games last season), he seems a great character. According to this AdelaideNow article, "Owusu was known as DJ LMO, a master of hip-hop scratch in the London dance club scene 10 years ago."

He's known for exuberant and ridiculous goal celebrations and is not exactly a picture of modesty. Speaking of his aerial ability, he says: "I don't want to sound big-headed but if I time my jumps right I don't think any centre half can deal with me. They don't call me 'Hang Time' for nothing."

DJ Hang Time LMO is not the only new player on Vidmar's radar, either. There are ongoing rumours about a mysterious Chilean (or is that Argentinean?) attacking midfielder, and an article in the Sydney Morning Herald today claims that "experienced Italian defender Andrea Merenda and Ivory Coast duo Vamarra Diarra and Ousmane Toure have all been scouted by Adelaide United coach Aurelio Vidmar." Obviously, we can't fit all these players into the squad considering that we already have several foreign players, but at least it sounds as though wheels are in motion.

The main thrust of that article, though, is the proposal for a second-tier national league to sit under the A-League. That really warrants a whole post of its own, and I'm too lazy at the moment, so for now I'll just say that I think it would be a fantastic way to bring the strong 'traditional' clubs - the Adelaide City, South Melbourne, Marconi Stallions et al - back into the fold. Get onto it Buckley & co.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Roar Against Papism

Now it's official - the Brisbane Roar, a team playing in orange and featuring two ex-Rangers players, will be playing Celtic FC in Brisbane on July 12, for the Roar against Racism fixture.

July 12 happens to be Orangemen's Day, commemorating the victory of William of Orange at the Battle of Boyne in 1690. If you're unfamiliar with the significance of this, let's just say that some Irish and Scottish Catholics don't look to kindly on the triumphalist, sectarian undercurrents of the Orangemen's Day festivities.

King Billy ready to Roar against Papism

Celtic and Rangers both have huge fan bases in Australia. I wonder if there'll be a march to the ground?

Marquee or not marquee?

That, fellow Salmoners, is the question.

The Football Federation of Australia has given United the green light to sign a marquee player for the upcoming season. However, according to Val Migliaccio (never a good way to start a sentence, but there you go), Michael Valkanis has indicated that United won't be looking to spend a huge amount on any player signed outside the salary cap.

Mile Sterjovski, then, would appear to be out of the picture. As would the superbly-talented Uruguayan playmaker Alvaro Recoba, who has also expressed interest in playing in the A-League. Perth had a sniff at him but chose not to stump up the cash. Perhaps a wise move, given his injury struggles over the past few years.

If we do take the marquee route, it will more likely be the sort of player that can provide a spark on the pitch and entertain a crowd but is not necessarily a household name in Australia. Which may not be such a bad thing. Sometimes the lesser-known marquee and import players in the A-League - guys like Fred, Shengqing Qu, Carlos Hernandez - have performed at a level well and truly above big-money signings like John Aloisi and Paul Agostino.

Above all, the player has to be the right fit for the team and has to be able to make an impact. A 'big name' might attract attention for a little while, but if the performance doesn't match the paycheque and the reputation the novelty soon wears off.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mutiny on the Con Air

The Newcastle Jets are currently providing the sort of off-season story line that wouldn't seem out of place in Ramsay Street or Summer Bay. Con Costantine, the club owner with notoriously shaky ethics whose motto appears to be 'my way or the highway', is on a collision course with his playing group.

The players, who have the backing of the Professional Footballers' Association, are threatening to boycott their decisive Asian Champions League clash against Ulsan Hyundai due to outstanding match payments. Con has proposed a 'crisis meeting' but the players are refusing to come to the table, preferring not to deal with him personally and to let the PFA operate on their behalf.

And, of course, a new hombre has recently ridden into town to shake things up: the eccentric, enigmatic Ljubo Milicevic.

The Ljubmobile has never been backward in coming forward. Refreshingly, he speaks his mind and doesn't seem to give a fuck who he puts offside. Even his employer. He recently slammed Con for not providing appropriate travel arrangements for the players' Asian jaunt. He's compared the Jets' organisation to running a fish and chip shop. He's worn a knit vest and pork pie hat on The World Game. His interviews are littered with references to gay discos.

Gary van Egmond backs his star defender's footballing qualities, suggesting that he should be in Verbeek's plans for the Socceroos. He also seems to support Ljubo's leadership and attitude on the training paddock, despite the recent hoopla about his blow-up at young Sean Rooney for being a lazy sod. But Dutchie has been very diplomatic about the standoff between the players and Con. Understandably - after all, he doesn't want to get thrown off a balcony.

What's amazing is that on the pitch Newcastle are actually doing quite well. Their last-minute come-from-behind win against Beijing Guoan, with Sean Rooney providing the winning strike, demonstrated a fighting quality that is, quite frankly, very surprising given all the rubbish that's going on at the club.

Newcastle fans have had a real rollercoaster ride over the past four years, probably more so than any other supporters in the league. It must be frustrating having to cope with such drama on a seemingly daily basis. They deserve some stability.

Friday, May 8, 2009

FFA: can't live with 'em, can't remain solvent without 'em

I got an email this morning from the club, confirming what we all knew was coming:


Dear Friend (that's me!),

As a valued friend of the Adelaide United Football Club, I wish to inform you of an important announcement that will shortly be made public. Club owners, Bianco Trade Supplies, today handed back its Hyundai A-League Licence and therefore ownership of AUFC, to the Football Federation Australia.

It is business as usual for the club and notwithstanding the transfer back to the FFA of the club’s licence, Adelaide United organisationally and people wise, is healthy and stable; and remains a strong, vital member of the A-League competition. Preparation for the 2009/2010 HAL season will carry on as usual, including day to day administration, football and financial operations.

The financial and personal contributions made by owner Nick Bianco and former chairman, Dario Fontanarosa are truly significant. They leave a legacy that will survive for years to come, in creating an intrinsically Adelaide entity that has set the benchmark in our still evolving national competition.

Full details will be announced tomorrow.

Yours sincerely

Sam Ciccarello

Chief Executive Officer, Adelaide United Football Club


So, it's official. Adelaide United's ownership is now, along with the newly-renamed Brisbane Roar, in the hands of the FFA. Which is not necessarily a bad thing: at various stages the governing body has aided or (in the case of Perth Glory) taken full ownership of other A-League clubs, with positive results.

The franchise system, which gives the FFA far greater centralised control than a system in which individual clubs are masters of their own destinies (as per the 'traditional' European leagues), can be a bone of contention. Some are uneasy with the notion of a big brother governing body being directly involved in the way clubs are run and setting all the rules.

This has been a source of frustration in the past for Adelaide fans, with the FFA carving up the club's winnings from its recent Asian Champions League campaign and distributing the loot between all eight clubs and the league itself. The only club not to actually profit from Adelaide United's ACL success, ironically, was Adelaide itself.

Some people might view the franchise system as socialistic. Which, in a way, I suppose it kind of is - the FFA is a powerful central administration which redistributes the wealth, ensuring that each of its consistuent clubs remains on a relatively equal footing, for the supposed betterment of the league as a whole. The downside of this is that the ambitions of individual clubs are somewhat hamstrung by the FFA's requirements, most obviously the limited salary cap. Clubs are prevented from growing and flourishing organically, as they might in a less regulated system.

The upside, as we are seeing now, is that when a club (or, in Adelaide's case, its owner) runs into financial difficulty, the FFA has the power and resources to jump in and steady the ship. So long as the governing body itself is financially sound, clubs' survival is more or less guaranteed. The abortive New Zealand Knights aside, I can't see the FFA ever actually cutting the cord on any of its clubs unless things really go pear-shaped.

Bianco wanted out; transferring ownership to the FFA gave him the ability to get out without fundamentally damaging the club. Now the club has time to find the right sort of investors. I don't see this as a bad thing for United at all. Let's line up a cashed-up sheik or Russian oligarch and really start cooking with gas.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Off-Season Youtube Nostalgia

Here's some of last season's best goals in the A-League, thanks to Youtube's freshcelery. A good variety of long range crackers and well-constructed team goals.

And here's some pure Red goodness for your viewing pleasure, put together by a noble soul by the name of Reds4PM. There are some gems from previous years in there, like the Fred Agius missile against Brisbane Strikers in the last season of the NSL:

Friday, May 1, 2009

National Football Curriculum

The footballing revolution continues. The long, brave march towards footballing utopia has been given another prod in the back today, with the FFA's release of a National Football Curriculum which aims to improve player development and team performance.

I can haz Han Berger?

The main thrust of the football curriculum is that it heavily emphasises development of skill and technique. Skill development takes place within the context of game-related situations, rather than through drills that exist in isolation.

An extension of this is that the FFA has identified 4-3-3 as the ideal playing formation for 'proactive' football with a technical emphasis. As such, all of the FFA's 'development' sides - for example, the national representative teams underneath the Socceroos and Matildas - should be playing this structure. Increasing players' skills will, theoretically, be favoured over results.

Those that worry about the credentials of our domestic coaching stocks should be able to breathe a sigh of relief, as well - in future there will be specific minimum requirements for high-level coaching positions within the FFA structure, including national team, A-League, W-League, National Youth League, AIS and State Institute coaches and technical directors.

All of this is, to me, a good sign that Australian football is still going in the right direction. We have a governing body with a clearly-structured plan for ongoing development of the game. We're not going to see the results straight away, but things like this have to happen for football to benefit in the long run. Maybe one day, when I'm old and grey, we'll see the seeds planted in this decade finally come to fruition.