Import-ant Times Ahead

June 6, 2014 at 11:57 am 4 comments

For a long time fans of many nationalities have questioned the affect of foreign players playing in their nations leagues has on the national team. Some fans who put their club before their country simply could not care less, but old fashioned fans who want to see local boys playing for their hometown team also want to see the national team perform on the World stage.

This is not a new predicament it is one that Scottish and English fans can relate to, as both nations have struggled to compete on the World stage in recent years, Scotland have virtually dropped off the radar following a rich history of qualifying for major international tournaments; even if the struggled to get out of the group stage they had some famous matches, goals and victories.

Even Russia is now finding itself in a similar position, Fabio Capello pleaded with the heads of the game their to tighten up the rules on foreign players as he was struggling to find a team to take to Brazil. He bemoaned the fact that he had a very limited choice of players available to him. No doubt Roy Hodgson feels the same way. Australia’s Ange Postecoglou must do.

It is no coincidence that in 2006 when Australia had more players playing in top leagues around Europe the national team not only broke a drought of 32 years to qualify for the World Cup, but they also managed progress from their group at the finals in Germany.

Postecoglou has already identified the fact that players in Australia no longer have to head to Europe in order to have a good career in football, as the A-League offers many a very good livelihood. The trouble is at the moment the standard of the A-League is a long way away from international football.

As much as leagues in Europe want the cream of world football playing for their top clubs in order to raise the standard of football, increase sponsorship and viewer and fan bases, leagues like the A-League have to be very careful when it comes to the importation of foreign players.

For a long time in South Africa their national team, Bafana Bafana has struggled to score goals at international level. The reason is clear to many. In the PSL the top strikers in the league are mainly imports from other African nations. A South African Bernard Parker topped the scoring charts this year with ten goals, but out of the six players in second and third place with nine and eight goals, three were from other African nations.

In the A-League this year it was great to see Adam Taggart top the scoring charts and even better that his achievement was recognised with a place in the World Cup Squad. In fact this year saw two home grown players come in second and third in the scoring charts, David Williams and James Troisi. Williams achievement made all the more special as Melbourne Heart finished last on the ladder.  Yet the next five top scorers were all imported players.

Taggart’s achievement was also special because at 21 he was the youngest player to be top scorer in the A-League, Alex Brosque in season one was 23 and shared his award with three other players.( All other Australian players to win this award have been 28 or over). Last season the veteran Daniel McBreen won the golden boot at the age of 36. The previous four seasons had seen the top scorer award go to imports. With no young strikers setting the world on fire overseas, it should come as no surprise that goals are hard to come by in international football.

If we look at the A-League player of the year award, you have to go back to season 2007-08 for an Australian player to have won it. Every award since then has gone to foreign player.

The A-league is in a very difficult phase of its development, it still needs foreign players to make the league attractive, as well as to keep the standard where it is, but it also has to look at whether those foreign players are hindering the national team’s development. With so few Australian players plying their trade in the top leagues of Europe and playing football at the highest level, this is not an issue that can be dismissed lightly.

The line at this world cup has been that the tournament is being used for development. You do not use a World Cup Finals for development and such comments have not gone down well overseas. Some fans new to the game may buy this spin, this time around, but not for long.

In the next four years before the next World Cup the A-League needs to have a good hard look at itself. Is it a platform or launching pad for players to go and play in better leagues in Europe so that our national team can compete at the highest level? Is it a league where we give adequate football players a a living, and bring in foreign players to excite on and off the pitch, as well as give the league a profile? The league is ten years old now, it is about to enter its teenage years and just like most teenagers it is time to start thinking about the long term future, and how that future will benefit the national team.



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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Super sub  |  June 6, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    On the money again. Look at two signings already, Keogh at Glory and Villa – as a guest true – at Melbourne City, but both are forwards!!!

  • 2. Ryan  |  June 6, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Since Rukavtysa has left Perth Glory has had Dadi, Jelic, McBreen (loan), Fowler, Smeltz, Mehmet and now Keogh as their main striker choices and the main youngster in the article, Taggart, was forced to go to another club to get opportunities!

    Says it all.

  • 3. All White  |  June 7, 2014 at 9:45 am

    With that performance this morning against Croatia your points are confirmed.

    Still don’t like Wilkinson at the back, good A-League player not an international, but who else is there? Wilkshire better than Davidson too, but his selection seems driven by politics IMO.

    Great point Ryan!

  • 4. Not The Footy Show  |  June 7, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Ryan, I totally agree, but Glory are not alone in this, crazy thing is they almost signed Petratos a few years back but someone at the club said he was not good enough! Petratos and Taggart would have been a nice pairing.

    Thanks All White, I tend to agree with Wilkinson and a few others. I too am not sure about Davidson, he was murdered v South Africa, but to be fair I thought played OK today.


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