Posts tagged ‘Champions’
The application date for the coaching position of the Australian men’s hockey team closes in less than 24 hours and then the rumours will commence as to who has applied, and who is likely to be given the role.
One thing that has baffled many in Hockey circles is the fact that Hockey Australia have in fact advertised the position. Surely with Ric Charlesworth’s tenure due to come to a close after the Commonwealth Games the powers that be would have had a plan in place should he decide to step aside, which he ultimately did. Why was there no succession plan? One would have expected a “Plan B” to be in place that would have included a shortlist of candidates who they believed were ideal to follow Charlesworth and ensure the team maintain its lofty standards.
When it was announced that Charlesworth was to step down after the Commonwealth Games – an event that was brought forward – reading between the lines of comments made by Hockey Australia CEO Cam Vale there was a strong indication that the next coach may well be one from Overseas. “The brief I have from the board is to find the best coach possible,” Vale is quoted as saying.”And I would imagine we will get a fair bit of interest – they are world No.1 and World Cup champions.”
The timing of all of this is not the best, and neither it would appear has been the handling of the affair. Graham Reid and Paul Gaudoin, Charlesworth’s assistants have been appointed joint Head Coaches for the Commonwealth Games. To appoint joint coaches for the Commonwealth Games was in many ways a cop out, and has been viewed as a lack of strong leadership. Although understandable, it is not an ideal position for either coach or the players. Both men who undoubtedly applied for the role will be hampered by the fact that both operate in very different ways, that was fine when Charlesworth was coach, as ultimately he had the final word, but who has the final word now?
Unfortunately unless a decision is made extremely quickly speculation is going to be rife while the Commonwealth Games are under way as to who will get the job on a permanent basis, who has been interviewed, etcetera. All things that could derail the Kookaburras campaign.
The Kookaburras are strong favourites to win the Gold medal at the Commonwealth Games having just won the World Cup so emphatically, but the leadership issue is one that cannot be ignored and they will still have to perform to take Gold. Keeping the team focussed unders such conditions with many senior players announcing their retirement may be harder than many imagine. England are a much improved team, as are the Colin Batch led New Zealand side; a man who will be keen to show his coaching prowess against his former team.
Following Charlesworth is going to be hard, ask David Moyes how hard it is to follow a legend. There will be many ambitious coaches who will look at the talent and style that Australia play and see the chance to make a name for themselves, yet they may be unaware of how Charlesworth lived, breathed and ate hockey, in order to attain success. Coaches with such dedication are few and far between and that was what made Charlesworth special.
There is a strong argument that his successor should come from that inner circle, as they will know exactly what went into the success of the past five years and will simply carry on the good work, but in their own style. To go outside of Australia, when the country has had so much success in the past 30 years, would seem needless, but sometimes administrators like to make a statement of their own.
Whatever the outcome there is a strong belief that this could have been planned and handled better than it has been, and that Hockey Australia was not working in the background lining up a replacement for the day when Charlesworth walked away, until that day finally came. Hopefully that will not ultimately affect the team’s performance.
News that Spain’s David Villa has signed for newly named Melbourne City – Formerly Melbourne Heart- in the Hyundai A League is indeed exciting news. Villa could well be the most exciting signing since Dwight Yorke in the inaugural season. The reason being this is a player still at the top of his game.
Villa has just won the La Liga and is headed to Brazil for his third World Cup Finals. Villa has won a World Cup and a European Championship with Spain, as well as UEFA Champions League, La Liga and FIFA Club World Cup. At 32 years of age he is almost five years younger than Alessandro del Piero was when he decided to play in the A-League.
The deal has undoubtedly come about because Villa has signed for New York City a club also owned by Melbourne Heart/City’s new owners the City Football Group. A Group who also are involved with English Premier League Champions Manchester City.
There are however warning signs as there always were with a club like Manchester City buying into smaller leagues around the World. Sending players out to these lesser clubs will assist Manchester City in avoiding fines similar to GBP49million one it just received for failing to comply with the UEFA Financial Fair Play rules; GBP32million of which was suspended.
Manchester City may have plenty of financial clout behind them but they have posted combined losses of almost £149m for the past two seasons – £97m in 2012 and £51.6m in 2013. The FFA need to be on top of monitoring the financial running of Melbourne City and ensure that this club’s debts do not spiral out of control, as a withdrawal by the City Football Group could leave the league and the club in a precarious position.
Perhaps though the other big warning sign came in a comment from David Villa following the announcement of his guest stint. “It’s very good for me in every sense,” Villa is reported to have said. “From a football point of view it’s the opportunity to play in a new league in a different country, and of course it will be ideal for me to get some competitive football in the period before the MLS season gets under way.”
The last thing the A-League needs to become is a pre-season training facility for the MLS and with the City Football club owning New York City and with all due respect to Melbourne, the pulling power and marketing potential is far greater in New York than it is in Melbourne, as well as the USA against Australia.
If the FFA allows such a thing to happen, the A-League being used to keep MLS players fit, this will ultimately be more damaging in the long term than the owners withdrawal. Fans relate to players and expect players to be loyal to their club, the last thing they need is the season to start superbly thanks to a number of “Blow-ins” only to implode when they go to play in a competition they feel is of a higher standard.
Having David Villa coming to play in Australia is great news and superb for fans of football in Australia. As stated he is not over the hill and will no doubt have a massive impact on and off the park, it is just his move flags other potential issues, and the game must look at its long term future and not short term fixes.
Change requires one person to make the first bold step, and new World Boxing Council President, Mauricio Sulaiman is to be applauded for attempting to implement change.
Sulaiman who took over from his father Jose after he passed away earlier this year is carrying on where his father left off, with the WBC leading the way once again in trying to implement changes in the sport, for the long term good of the sport.
The meeting of Boxing’s Championship bodies has been talked about but has not happened for far too long. The last meeting was when Gilberto Mendoza the President of the WBA met in Mexico some years ago with the then WBC President Jose Sulaiman.
Mauricio Sulaiman is trying to re-ignite that initiative. He has said that the main reason for the meting is to try to unify rules, so that there is an agreed united standard in the sport, as in most sporting activities, that fans and boxers alike know and understand. One issue the fans would like to see is the restoration of less World Titles, with the “Super” weight categories being put to bed once and for all. There are quite simply too many world titles and as a result some boxers are able to adopt that moniker, yet are honestly not worthy of it. Sadly this is unlikely to happen.
At the moment it is expected that the big four will take part in the proposed summit meeting of Boxing’s super powers, the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO. These are the established bodies and the one’s whose titles carry the most kudos. Fight fans would like to see these trimmed back to two, possibly three at the most, but that will never happen.
Some would say that there should be one, which is agreed, but there is some magic in boxing when there is a unification bout between the two Champions of the WBC and WBA. One thing that all of the boxing bodies must do is make their Champions fight the number one contender within a set period, as in the past. Sadly in modern day boxing, to increase their worth as the World Champion too many fighters avoid the top contenders and fight lower ranked opponents to stay at the top that little bit longer. This does the sport no good whatsoever.
No date has been set for the meeting as yet, but let us hope that progress can be made and as proposed the bodies can indeed unify many of the rules.
The second Hero Hockey India League has reached the semi-final stage with the same four teams from 2013 facing off to challenge for the title today in Ranchi. Uttar Pradesh Wizards will play Delhi Waveriders and Jaypee Punjab Warriors will meet defending Champions Ranchi Rhinos; their third meeting in successive games, Punjab having won the first two.
Most players and coaches have stated that the second edition has seen a much closer competition, and the addition of Kalinga Lancers meant the competition could be played on a straight home and away basis, a move welcomed by all.
As great a showpiece as the tournament has been and Star sports has invested heavily in their coverage using 22 cameras as opposed to the standard six normally used, to try and give sports fans a more inclusive experience, taking them into the heart of the action, deficiencies in the development of young Indian players has been evident.
German goalkeeper Nikolas Jacobi, playing for the Delhi Waveriders stated that the problem lay in the young players being taught the basics in terms of positional play and structures in attack and defence that many other nations instil in their children at a very young age. Terry Walsh the recently appointed coach of India agreed with these comments, and has said that he will be working on trying to improve the standard of coaching in the development stages so that time does not have to be spent on these issues when the international squad meets.
The Hockey India League, has been a great opportunity for many young Indian players to step up and show what they are capable of, as well as learn from top players and coaches from around the world. Some have however shown that they may still be slightly overawed by the company in which they find themselves.
Olympic Gold Medal winning coach Barry Dancer in charge of the table topping Jaypee Punjab Warriors has said that he would like to see more foreign players made available so that the HIL product can continue to improve. At present each team has ten foreigners in their squad with only five allowed on the pitch at any one time. He has also stated that he would like to see another team introduced.
Were that to happen one would hope that recruitment for that team was looked at carefully. Kalinga Lancers performance was remarkable when one considers that apart from their overseas recruits none of their Indian players had played at international level for two years. All of the current players or those on the verge of international status had been taken by the other franchises. A new franchise would need to have access to some established talent in order to be competitive.
Barry Dancer talked about recruiting from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, but how about also looking to Asia, and picking some South Korean (maybe soon Korean) players or Japanese, and help hockey develop and gain an audience in this region? Then there is the horny issue of allowing Pakistan players to play.
In 2013 Mumbai Magicians recruited a number of Pakistan players but due to issues of unrest back home in Pakistan and tensions at the border it was decided that it was best they did not play. Politically things have stabilised in recent times and it is very sad that talented players from Pakistan, who will help boost the crowds and also offer so much in terms of their ability, are not being seen in such a competition. The game as a whole would benefit so much from their participation.
It is hard to justify why they have not been welcomed back when former Pakistan players are involved in the commentary teams on television, as have their counterparts in the cricket coverage in India. Why should current players suffer?
The Hero Hockey India League has been a great advertisement for the game of Hockey. It has grown from 2013 in so many ways, but still has room to improve. Video referrals are one area that both players and coaches would like to see implemented from the start of the competition, and not just from the semi finals. With such a system working at most international tournaments it is only fair to expect it in a premier competition such as this.
The great thing is rivalries are being established within the league and Hockey is returning to the consciousness of the Indian people. This league is part of the plan to restore India to the top ranks of World Hockey, it will not happen in the short term but the country is moving in the right direction.
The new year is well under way and football fans have a great deal to look forward to with a World Cup in Brazil. Closer to home they have the new National Premier Leagues to look forward to. A competition that is going to link the top semi-professional leagues around the country.
It is important to remember why this league has come about, it has been forced upon the game in Australia because those running the game at the time Australia was bidding to be accepted into the Asian Football Confederation promised a second tier competition to the A-League by 2013. Hence the unwillingness to listen to the concerns of clubs around the country and the “we’ll adapt as we go approach.” Building something on shifting sands is never a wise decision.
It is interesting to note that the NPL should come into being in 2014, the same year that the Australian Rugby Union will be launching the National Rugby Championship. Although created for very differing reasons, both sports realise that the second tier competition is lacking and that without it the elite teams suffer.
Let us go back to the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Australia was on top of the world in sport, maybe not in football just yet but that was just around the corner. Sports science was the buzz word and anyone that worked in the field in Australia was much in demand as the rest of the world clamoured to match a nation that punched well above its weight.
Australia looked to keep one step ahead of the rest of the world as key personnel headed overseas and started running international programs for other nations. One of the innovations was to hive off talented youngsters and keep them in a controlled environment, control their training, eating habits and game time, the idea being that at the end a supremely fine tuned athlete would emerge. Very similar to some Eastern Bloc regimes just without the steroids. Many of these selected athletes were not to perform with the clubs from which they had been plucked, as the fear was if they played amongst lesser talented individuals their standard would drop back to theirs.
The major downside of these controlled environments, apart from some young players getting ahead of themselves, is that you are unable to gauge how the finely tuned athlete will perform when the chips are down, or in a an overly physical environment. Do they have the inner strength the physical toughness, not just the muscle, to get the team across the line.
It was baseball coach Yogi Berra who coined the phrase ‘Baseball is 90% mental the other half is physical.’ With time the word ‘baseball’ was replaced by the word ‘sport.’ The funny thing is that 90% of coaches along with their athletes spend 100 percent of their time working on the physical and tactical sides of their sport. The reason being that mental edge cannot be taught. Some people have it, some people don’t and it has nothing to do with lifestyles.
In the era mentioned, when Australia was at the top in rugby union and cricket, players played for their clubs, if they were lucky they were picked for their state side. They were not guaranteed a long term place in the side, they had to perform on a regular basis in order to earn that right. If they couldn’t cut it they were back playing with their clubs. What is more important in both of these sports when there were no test matches international players would be playing at their clubs, that in turn helped aspiring players learn what was required to make it to the next level. Nowadays in cricket they hardly ever play for their states teams let alone their clubs.
The problem with the academy system is you have as a club committed to a player, you may be able to create this magnificent specimen of an athlete, -as this is how all sports people are classed now – but how do you know that athlete can perform? The only way is to throw them in the mix, but then many coaches are loathe to do that at the highest level because their job could be on the line if the athlete fails and the team loses.
Australian rugby has realised this predicament, and that is why they have created the National Rugby Championship. This will give those fringe players, as well as the academy players a chance to show what they can do in a real game situation, without harming the integrity of the Super 15 sides.
Australia were superb in this Summer’s Ashes but that victory covered over a great number of cracks in the game and the talent pool. One of the things that the rest of the world admired about Australian cricket of yesteryear was how they seemed able to pluck players at random from the Sheffield Shield competition and these players were able to perform at Test level. That is no longer the case.
Football has to accept that with the dawn of the professional era in Australia, the gulf between the A-League and the new NPL players is widening. It is already bigger than it has ever been. Ex Socceroo and A-League coach John Kosmina spoke out about this in 2011, and stated that the FFA needed to invest money at this level. The NPL will see negligible investment from the FFA. The points system is also going to be detrimental to the development of quality players capable of making that step up to the next level; the players points system penalises players as they get older, as they are worth more points and teams can only field a side with a set number of points.
The points system is a protectionist move to ensure that the young players who they have had in their development programs – and in some cases whose parents have spent thousands of dollars in the hope that their son will make it to the big time – get to play senior football. The State League competition, or NPL as it is now, is not and never should be a development league! If you turn this competition into a development league you will end up starving the A-League of genuine talent. That is unless you want the A-League to be a development league for overseas clubs?
As rugby has realised the second tier needs to be highly competitive and in that environment the cream will rise to the surface. One problem Football faces, being governed by FIFA rules, is getting around how fringe A-League players on full professional contracts can compete in a separate competition, run by a different body without terminating those contracts. FIFA have advised Not The Footy Show previously that there is no such thing as dual registration, so that is not an option.
There is no doubt that Football needs an improved second tier competition and to have it linked nationally is definitely a great move, however as touched on before, geography and costs should not play such a big part in the play-off series to decide who Australia’s champions will be. By bowing to these influences you are tampering with the integrity of the competition as well as hampering the natural evolution of teams and players. Essentially by giving in to such constraints the FFA opens itself up for accusations of skewing the competition in order to get what they want out of it.
Respected Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger several years ago threw down a challenge to any coach who could identify a 13 year old and guarantee that they would play at the highest level when they reached adulthood. There are too many variables to be able to guarantee such things, yet the FFA and its development pathway seem hellbent on proving the likes of Wenger wrong.
Skill and preparation will get a player so far, as rugby has discovered. However the reality is that sport is 100% mental, a player’s thoughts influence his actions, and then those actions influence their thoughts. Ultimately it is in most cases the mental side that separates successful athletes from those who do not reach their full potential. The cold reality is unless you place an athlete in a real competitive environment you will never find out how good he is and whether he can cut the mustard.
Two sports taking very different approaches to underpinning their top competition, it will be interesting to compare rugby and football’s development over the next few years and how the Super 15 franchises and the A-League Franchises compare in terms of onfield performance and standards. As for Cricket, let us see which path they chose to go down in the future for Australia will no doubt have to re-visit the way it is doing things away from the Big Bash League.
The Chinese Super League is the same age as the Hyundai A-League, both competitions celebrate their tenth anniversary in 2014. Obviously both nations have very different population bases on which to call upon in terms of support and playing personnel, but there are some comparisons worth looking at.
The A-League is made up of ten teams, the Chinese Super League has sixteen teams. The average attendance in the A-League for 2013 was 12,707. In the CSL it was 18,571. In the A-League fifty percent of the teams failed to achieve an average gate of 10,000, and only one averaged over 20,000, that was Melbourne Victory with 23,789. In the CSL two teams averaged under 10,000. six averaged over 20,000 with Champions Guangzhou Evergrande averaging 40,428.
In both leagues there is a limit on the number of overseas players per club. In the A-League there is a maximum of five players – although Western Sydney Wanderers have been allowed more – from outside Australia and in the Wellington Phoenix’s case outside of New Zealand. In the CSL although there are also five per team one slot is for a player from one of the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) countries. A rule that may well benefit Australia. In China a team can only use a maximum of four foreign players on the field each game, in Australia its five. The aim in China is to promote native player improvement and to conform to rules regarding international club competitions in the AFC, such as the Asian Champions League.
When it comes to the Asian Champions League both countries started off with two spots, in 2009 China’s allocation was increased to four while Australia remained at two. That was until 2012 when both countries were given three spots, this changed again in 2013 with Australia given one automatic spot and one play off spot, while China kept its three automatic places.
Australia has had one team make the final, Adelaide United in 2008 where they lost to Gamba Osaka from Japan. China too has only had one team make the final since the start of the Chinese Super League, Guangzhou Evergrande who won in 2013 beating FC Seoul from South Korea.
The two leagues stack up in many respects but one where the gap is very real is when it comes to recruitment and player contracts. Salaries in Chinese football when compared to other Chinese sports leagues are much higher. As a result, numerous quality young players from Serbia, Brazil, Honduras, and other Latin American regions are signed as the foreign players in the Chinese league. These players are then sold on by the Chinese clubs to top clubs in Europe and South America. For example Guangzhou Evergrande recently sold Lucas Barrios to Spartak Moscow for EUR7million. Dario Conca also left the club this year to sign for Fluminese, the transfer fee has not been disclosed but is believed to be in the region of USD5million. When he was signed by Guangzhou it is worth mentioning that the deal saw him become the third highest paid player in the world behind only Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
This is where the A-League cannot possibly be compared. Rather than signing up and coming talent that they can sell back to clubs overseas they have opted to try and pull punters through the turnstiles with ageing stars of yesteryear, who are well past their use by date and who once they stop playing in Australia are unlikely to play again.
Interestingly both countries opted for a franchise model when setting up their league competitions, but this is where the real difference comes into play. In China, probably because of the population base they opted for a corporate franchise model, one that saw corporations with plenty of capital owning the clubs. In Australia they opted for private owners who wanted to become involved in the game for a myriad of reasons. None it would appear have utilised the pulling power of the game to the maximum, virtually all the clubs are still losing money, ten years into the league. Sadly the the word on the street is that one owner is again considering walking away at the end of the 2013/14 season as he can no longer sustain the losses at the club he owns as his primary business interests suffer.
Population undoubtedly plays a big part in attracting ownership such as the kind the clubs enjoy in China, but with corporate dollars behind them they can attract top players who in turn attract the crowds and then can recoup money on that investment when they sell the players on.
Many will say that Australia has a unique problem in that football has to compete with three other codes of football, Rugby League, Rugby Union and Australian Rules. China however also has a number of sports vying for pole position in terms of popularity, and Badminton, Basketball and table tennis are the sport’s main rivals, while sports such as tennis, volleyball and boxing are all on the rise with success being achieved on the world stage.
It is interesting to compare the two leagues as they approach their tenth birthdays together, and one cannot help feeling that the reason success appears to be coming quicker in China is because they have grasped the fact that football is and always will be about the collective and not the individual.
For many months “Not The Footy Show” – as well as many others – has questioned the reasons, and the structure of the FFA’s new National Premier Leagues (NPL) competition. Having read through the latest presentation one has to seriously ask why any club would want to be a part of such a competition.
For starters point number one in the draft of the common rules reads,”1. Football West may alter, add to, clarify or delete any of these rules at its discretion. Any changes to these rules will be communicated to clubs.” That is the very first point in the document! Any lawyer will advise you on reading this to not bother reading any further and walk away, as you are handing total control to someone who can change rules to suit themselves.
If you read the presentation that was given to the clubs accepted into the NPL which is on the Football West website this again raises some fairly major issues. First of all it states “Document reflects the standard template provided by FFA and signed by every State/MF and club in 2013.” (MF = Member Federation) Firstly If this is so, surely the terms and conditions are set in stone across the country – an issue Victorian Clubs successfully challenged in the courts – and secondly why has it taken Football West almost two months since clubs were elected for the NPL to present this document? Also why on the next line of the presentation does it state “Discussed and amended over the next month or so?” If this was a truly national competition surely there would be a standard Participation Agreement and no room for movement, or if there was it was discussed months ago. What is even more worrying is that there is no actual deadline for discussion with the league due to commence in four months.
The FFA Cup which is due to commence in 2014 and which is another competition that the FFA promised the AFC but did nothing about and have now been forced to rush through is being billed as ” ‘our’ competition – a Cup to unite the Australian football community” in the presentation. Time will tell on that one. One has to wonder how long funding will allow this competition to run.
WA will have Perth Glory compete in this 32 team competition, as well as the two Cool Ridge Cup Finalists. One of the questions raised several months ago by the Football Union was how much of the television money would filter down to the clubs playing in this competition. It would appear the answer is nil, as according to the presentation “Fox Sports has agreed to heavily promote and broadcast a high number of matches either through pay-TV or via streaming.” Having shelled out $148 million in cash and another $12million in marketing, Fox Sports are unlikely to be injecting more money, and the FFA are unlikely to have any left from what they have promised the A-League clubs.
This competition is supposedly going to go from 32 teams participating in 2014 to “as many as 500-600 clubs participating throughout the country” by 2015.
The presentation then moves into use of the NPL logo at great length before talking about the Participation Agreement that was given to the NPL clubs that evening. After that it declares that the “Top of the Ladder qualifies” for the NPL Championship finals and confirms that WA has already been drawn to play against South Australia’s Champions; It may however be Premiers, time will tell. Is that convenient or a coincidence? We will not know until next year’s draw, surely it cannot be a set draw each year?
The presentation then moves onto the role of the club media co-ordinator, interestingly the two hours proposed for the position has gone, which is just as well as they will have to write a match preview and a match report, tweet, update Facebook, liaise with local media, update the club website, feed into the NPL website and no doubt co-ordinate the filming of the game and the goals with the free camera supplied by Football West, for their goal of the week package. Sounds like a key position in the club and plenty of work.
So using this information and the news that Nike will be a sponsor of the NPL in kind, to the value of $50,000, which is likely to be split between all the participating NPL clubs, so $5000 each, which the clubs were told would be taken off their registration fees, one has to wonder why a club would want to be a part of such a competition.
Your operating costs are going to have risen purely by having to supply a technical director who will oversee all the paid accredited coaches of your eight teams from under 12’s up as well as a media co-ordinator. Your accounting fees will rise by having to supply quarterly figures to Football West. You are now going to have to film and do your own match report; a saving to Football West of about $1500 per week, yet that money has not been mooted as being filtered back to the clubs. You are giving up key signage at your ground as well as the production of a match day program, which are both income opportunities. You get no TV money, You get no prize money. In fact you get no money at all, just credit on your registration fees. Oh yes and these have gone up at both senior and junior level.
It will all be worth it to be crowned NPL Champions of WA. Or will it? As Champions of the NPL in Western Australia what do you get apart from that title? Nothing, nada, nil. It is the finalists in the cup who have the kudos of playing in the FFA cup, and it is the League Premiers who will play off for the NPL Championship, even though they are not champions. Surely therefore it should be re-branded the NPL Premiership, and if this team is going to be crowned Champions/Premiers of Australia, the league winners are now the recognised winners of the competition? Or is that too logical?
The only consolation must be that clause we mentioned at the beginning, “Football West may alter, add to, clarify or delete any of these rules at its discretion. Any changes to these rules will be communicated to clubs.” No doubt clubs signing the Participation Agreement will be looking forward to such communication to put their minds at ease.