Posts tagged ‘Champions’
When Australian football moved Confederations from Oceania to Asia there was a long debate between those at the top of the FFA and those at the Asian Football Confederation as to which teams from Australia would earn a place in the Asian Champions League.
The AFC believed that it should be the team that finished top of the League, the FFA stated that they would be sending their Grand Final winner. After six months of going back and forth eventually Australia was granted two spots – at the expense of Vietnam- and both teams were accepted into the Asian Champions League.
Now with the dawning of the FFA Cup Adelaide United as inaugural Champions believe that they should be given a place in the competition and there will be many who will agree with them.
Currently Brisbane Roar who were last season’s premier’s plate and grand final winner will play, along with runners up and losing Grand Finalists Western Sydney Wanderers, as well as the Central Coast Mariners Mariners who finished third on the league ladder have a play off spot to qualify for the competition. Surely the FFA Cup winner should move ahead of them?
To be fair the Football Federation Australia announced earlier this month that next year’s FFA Cup winner is in line to win a berth at the 2016 Champions League, however Adelaide are believed to be keen to fast track the Cup winners into the tournament in 2015.
Adelaide Chairman Greg Griffin has been quoted as saying “We are the cup winner, I don’t know yet (if we’ll contest the decision), it’s disputable (the rules). Cast your mind back when it was Adelaide United versus Persipura in the ACL (Champions League).’’ Griffin was referring to 2012 when the Indonesian club was granted a play off spot in the Asian Champions League at the 11th hour.
Adelaide wrote to the Asian Football Confederation asking for clarification on the ruling of Champions League clubs participants before the FFA Cup final was played.
Despite Adelaide’s claims in a ten team league where the top six make the finals series and have a chance to be crowned Champions it is ridiculous that a third of the teams in the competition should be competing in the pinnacle tournament in the region. Also with Australian teams currently struggling financially within the A-League surely clubs need to get their house in order here before trying to compete in Asia, and have to cover the extra costs of competing in the ACL?
There are many who feel if the AFC wants the Asian Champions League to be taken seriously, there honestly should be no more than two teams from any country taking part in this still fledgling competition. The more you dilute the competition by bringing in non-champions the competition will take longer to take a hold in the psyche of the average Asian football fan.
There is a bigger issue at play here though, and one that could change the face of Australian football.
The AFC has specific rules for Australia’s Champions League allocation for 2015 in the “Manual for decision method AFC Champions League participation” document.
In phase five of the document it states that member association (Australia) is allocated three Champions League slots, which shall consist of the “winner of the national top division league, winner of the national knockout cup and the runner-up of the national top division league.”
Based on that Adelaide have a very strong case, and the teams representing Australia in the 2015 Champions League should be Brisbane Roar, Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United.
The issue here for the FFA is that they have stipulated in the past that the grand final winner is the cup winner. If the AFC opt to recognise Adelaide United ahead of the Grand Final winner, suddenly there becomes little value in winning the Grand Final and the finals series has to be looked at as a different competition from the League season.
The AFC may well have met the FFA halfway almost ten years ago, but will they eventually get what they always wanted, the team that is the top of the league at the end of the regular season being the team that is crowned Champions?
Just another situation for the FFA to manoeuvre their way out of without harming the current competition in Australia. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.
One reputation that Australian sport has around the globe is that the nation is not a good loser. Frequently when beaten, the officials are blamed, the conditions, etcetera, rather than accepting that maybe on the day they were beaten by a better team.
Is this strong hatred of losing, that has embedded itself into the psyche of Australian sports so strongly, the reason for the current aversion to punish teams appropriately by throwing them out of a competition for, for want of a better word, cheating? Is this the same reason why the FFA, and in fact many sports in the country are against bringing in relegation to their league competitions at national level?
With a failure to perform not being punished by relegation elite sport becomes extremely protectionist, a closed shop. CEO David Gallop’s comment last week that the A-League expansion would be based on population rather than merit, was one that disappointed many football fans across the country.
It would no doubt have disappointed the Asian Football Confederation who requested relegation to be implemented, and the fact that the National Premier Leagues is supposed to in the words of the FFA “underpin” the A-League.
Many believe that the Champions of this competition should earn the right to replace the bottom placed team in the A-League. Although there are so many issues attached to such a move.
Firstly as the FFA Cup has so far proved, full time footballers are a lot fitter and stronger than their semi-professional counterparts. That is not to say that the semi-professionals with the same training and commitment could not match, or even surpass those playing at the moment. However it will take time.
Another problem is that the FFA model for the A-League, which involved private investors owning clubs, creates another massive issue when pitted against a community based semi-professional club. If the privately owned club is relegated, the private owner will most likely walk away and the FFA faces either finding a new owner for the club, or an established club folding. What about “Parachute Payments” to the relegated A-League club as per those teams relegated from the English Premier League to the Championship? These are payments to assist clubs in paying higher wages than in the league the find themselves playing in, and assist them to adjust their books to meet their new environment. The problem here is the FFA does not have the money for such payments. Another issue is that most A-League clubs do not have a ground that they can call “home.” So where are they going to play their games and generate income?
Many will say that the players will walk away, but how can a player under contract walk away? If relegation were to come in, and the A-League was to be a league based on reward, then a transfer system would need to be implemented, so that newly promoted clubs could in fact purchase players from the relegated team should that club wish to release them. With the FFA struggling to handle international transfers as it is and still taking a percentage of these, even though FIFA stated that this was illegal (Cashing In), a domestic transfer system is extremely unlikely to happen in the near future. Although there is no reason why it should not occur at NPL level.
What about the Salary Cap? Newly promoted clubs would be faced with making the leap from administering a wage bill in the hundreds of thousands to one in the millions. Could they cope? Do they have the experience and wherewithal to handle such larges sums of money? Many of these clubs are currently run by well meaning committed volunteers, who love football, but many clubs are struggling to make ends meet. How therefore would they cope in a professional environment? Would they be prepared to bring in experts to run the club and relinquish their control? Ultimately this is a decision for each club, but it is a real issue that needs considering by those who advocate the promotion and relegation system.
There are many who say that new clubs to the A-League should not have to make such a giant step in terms of meeting the current salary cap. That they should instead be allowed to build their club based on a budget that they feel is achievable, and will not put the established club in a financial position that could ultimately see it fold, if it fails on the pitch. There is merit in this school of thought, however yet again clubs need to become professional in the way they operate. At NPL level we need to see contracts back in place, clubs not approaching other players without doing it properly, by asking the President first. Unless these clubs are run along professional lines and employ proper football etiquette, they will never survive in the full time professional environment. Is this an area the FFA should be helping? Maybe, but do the FFA really want any true community-based clubs with history in the A-League? It is unlikely they will invest time and money in helping the clubs they claim are “underpinning” the A-League, as the last thing they want is the possibility of a former NSL club resurfacing. They would rather create new clubs “where there are millions of people not hundreds of thousands,” as Mr Gallop said last week.
There is no doubt that Promotion and Relegation would enhance the football experience in Australia. It is a fact that the AFC want to see it introduced. There is no doubt it would benefit the players immensely as suddenly they know what it is to play in do-or-die games, something many A-League players have never experienced, because they have been cotton-wooled from this environment, by travelling the “football pathway.”
Former Australian coach Terry Venables stated to this writer that his biggest challenge as national coach was trying to teach Australians how to hang onto a 1-0 lead and kill a game. The problem he said, was they did not play enough competitions where they needed to do that, and were happy to continually bomb forward and attack; The Iran game in 1997 maybe a case in point, although Venables was blamed for his tactics. Whatever your thoughts on that, this is where Pim Verbeek’s achievement of having the Socceroos qualify for the World Cup in South Africa without conceding a goal is an underrated achievement. His was the first real change in approach since Venables comments, he built a team that qualified on a strong defence. Now pressure from the media and others has seen Australia revert to type. Ange Postecoglou, who has done a great job since taking over as National coach is encouraging attacking football, but the Socceroos are leaking too many goals, an issue that needs to be addressed quickly. To win or progress in international tournaments you need to learn to kill a game when you have a lead, as unattractive as it may seem, Italy are masters of it, hence their repeated success at the highest level. Sadly the National Youth League is still not teaching this. Fighting for promotion and the prize of a place in the A-League, or the threat of relegation may well help develop this side of the game in Australia. An important part of a player’s development and one that will assist in the national team progressing in major tournaments.
Will we see promotion and relegation happen in the next ten years of the A-League? Hopefully. Will we see it realistically? Unlikely.
The trouble is with A-League clubs being privately owned, most owners would walk away once their club was relegated as few are genuinely there for the game as a whole. Hence the reason the FFA needs to protect those clubs.
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.