Posts tagged ‘2010 world cup’

Finding Her Identity

Last week’s result by the Socceroos securing a draw with World Champions Germany n Kaiserslautern was another feather in the cap of national team coach Ange Postecoglou. It was also a wonderful result on the back of the team’s Asian Cup victory.

Despite these successes there is something that Ange Postecoglou has managed to achieve that no other Socceroos coach has achieved, and for that the game should be eternally grateful.

Rale Rasic back in the Seventies awoke the nation with is team of part-timers making it to the World Cup in 1974 being one of just 16 teams that participated in the finals. It was almost a surreal experience according to those who remember it.

Guus Hiddink broke the jinx, and in truth had some luck in seeing the team qualify for Germany in 2006; in a penalty shoot-out the result can go anyway, unless you are playing Germany! Yet when the tournament started he showed his tactical acumen and managed to steer the team past the group stage, and almost past eventual Champions Italy.

Pim Verbeek achieved the remarkable steering the team to the 2010 finals conceding just a single goal against Japan in the final round of qualifying, with a team that was clearly on the wane. His mission was accomplished. He has suffered major criticism for the 4-0 defeat against Germany, yet the same team went on to beat England 4-1 and Argentina 4-0 before bowing out to Spain in the semi finals.

No one except the FFA and Holger Osieck will ever know what the total brief was at the time of his appointment. One key factor was another qualification for the World Cup which he achieved. He was criticised for not blooding enough young players, yet he achieved the task that he was set.

What all of these failed to do, that Postecoglou has managed to do in his short time as coach, was play a style of football that taps into the Australian psyche.

In the past week this writer has spoken to three people who confessed they never watched the Socceroos before ‘because they were boring.’ They still admitted they did not watch most of the game but they would tune in because the current team is ‘exciting to watch.’

There is no doubt that the Golden generation featuring the likes of Schwarzer, Viduka, Kewell, Bresciano, Grella, Neill and co, were technically more gifted than many of the current crop of players. There were also more of them playing football at a higher level than most of the current crop. Yet the team never managed to achieve what Postecoglou’s players have achieved.

Postecoglou is without doubt one of the best home grown coaches Australia has produced. Like many of the great coaches an injury curtailing his career – just as happened to Brian Clough – saw him enter management at a very young age. Success in the NSL was a regular achievement. When the A-league started he was coach of the national Youth team, which proved with hindsight to be a great learning experience. Back in club football in the new A-League with Brisbane Roar he again created a team that played attractive football and won championships. When he became national coach many wondered how he would fair and early results were not promising. Yet during those games a pattern was evolving.

A pattern that has seen Australia for the first time have a football team with an identity. By that we mean an identity in terms of the style of football that the national team plays.

Australian football under Frank Arok was again blessed with extremely talented players, many who were still forced to be semi-professional. The team was always combative, the team never ever gave up, but the style frequently changed depending on the opposition or the importance of the match.

It was the late Spurs and Northern Ireland captain Danny Blanchflower who once said “Our tactics have always been to equalize before the other team score.” It may sound crazy but one feels the sentiment is there in this Australian team.

Postecoglou has tapped into the Australian sporting Psyche, that Australians in every sport like to be the aggressor. Look at the Cricket team, the Wallabies, the Kookaburras, all are teams that are immediately on the front foot against their opposition. All of them like to take it up to the opposition and make them know that they are not in awe of them. Previous Socceroos coaches have focussed on trying to limit the scoring opportunities of the opposition and therefore tended to play very defensive football. It appears Postecoglou realises that currently Australia’s defensive stocks are not world class, and therefore the team is bound to concede against quality opposition. However rather than sit back and try and limit the damage, his teams go on the attack. The theory being that Australia will score more than their opponents. It is a style that has resonated with many Australians who have never followed the game, and he may well have finally given the nation a style that becomes synonymous with the Socceroos.

Japan knew they could never compete physically with the bigger European players, so they developed a fast paced game based on speed touch and fitness in order to be competitive and it has paid dividends to their national team and is now a style that is expected from their teams. They focussed on their strengths and improved their weaknesses.

Postecoglou has done exactly the same. He has tapped into Australia’s desire to be the team on the attack and a new style of football has evolved. A style that seems to have captured the public’s imagination. Hopefully is a style that can be maintained, and will just like Japan become synonymous with the Socceroos.

To quote the inspirational Danny Blanchflower again ” The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.” It would appear that Postecoglou shares those sentiments.

Blanchflower was a part of a Tottenham team that won the double and also steered Northern Ireland to the quarter finals of the 1958 World Cup in the same year he lost his brother Jackie in the Munich Air disaster. Spurs with him in the side played an attractive brand of football, a brand of football where they believed if the opposition scored one, they would score two.

It would appear the Socceroos under Postecoglou have the same sense of belief. It certainly appears that they have found a style that resonates with the people of Australia. Let us hope they continue to win fans over playing football in this manner and like Spurs and Northern Ireland with Blanchflower in their side are rewarded with success. Most of all let this be the style of football for which Australia is known.

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March 30, 2015 at 10:35 am Leave a comment

Looking After Yesterday’s Heroes.

At the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games the image of John Stephen Akwhari from Tanzania was used in the promotion of Olympic heroes who had failed to win medals; the catchline was “celebrate humanity.”

Akwhari – who ran in the Perth Commonwealth Games in 1962 – competed in the marathon at the Olympics in Mexico City in 1960. Like many of the runners he struggled with the high altitude. After 19 km there was some jostling for positions and he fell badly wounding his knee as well as his shoulder which  hit hard against the pavement. He however continued running,. There were only a few thousand people left in the stadium, and the sun had set, when he came running in to complete the finals lap. He was last  among the 57 out of 75 competitors who completed the race. He was cheered by those remaining as he crossed the finish line, and then when interviewed and he was asked why he continued running, he uttered the immortal words, “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”

In Sydney there were a group of athletics fans who wondered first of all where John Akwhari was and also whether he was being rewarded for the IOC using his image in such a way. It turned out initially he was not, but that was soon corrected and these same men set up the John Stephen Akwhari Athletic Foundation, an organization that supports Tanzanian athletes training for the Olympic Games.

About a month ago it was announced that FIFA would be flying the last living member of Uruguay’s 1950 World Cup winning side to attend the draw for next year’s tournament in Brazil. Alcides Ghiggia, now 86 years old scored the wining goal in Uruguay’s upset 2-1 victory over the hosts Brazil at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janiero.

This is a great gesture on behalf of FIFA, but it is hoped that this living legend will not be exploited.

Sadly this was not the case in 2010. Once aware of the importance that football played in re-shaping the new South Africa, and how the prisoners on Robben Island used the rules of FIFA to learn governance in their tournaments during their exercise time, FIFA pounced on using this in its promotion of the 2010 World Cup.

Four of the key men in Makana Football Association, as it was known, Lizo Sitoto, Marcus Soloman, Tony Suze and Sedick Isaacs were used to promote the South African World Cup. On four occasions they were taken back to Robben island for publicity purposes, as well as used at other events. Yet none received any financial reward for their time or tickets to any games.

John Akwhari was lucky that John McCarthy QC was one of the men in Sydney who stepped in to help him. Others stars of yesteryear are not as lucky. With so much money in sport, surely if we are going to use these people’s memories and images they should receive some reward? In 2001 when the Socceroos lost to Uruguay in the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo and another World Cup dream was shattered, the pain of that loss was eased when one heard that the whole of the Uruguayan side donated their match fees to those survivors from the 1950 World Cup win. That is what sport is about camaraderie, sharing good and bad times and never forgetting those who came before and honouring them in what ever way we can.

Hopefully this time around FIFA will be sure to reward Alcides Ghiggia and help make his remaining days with us a little easier.

September 19, 2013 at 10:03 am Leave a comment

Facelift or Facial for A League?

The Hyundai A league is we are told due for another facelift next season, which seems hard to believe when it is so young, but this is what happens when a code allows administrators from other codes to come in and run a game they know little about and have no passion for. However is something as drastic as a facelift a necessity?

The FFA Board are about to review the feedback that they have received from the stakeholders, and how they feel they can boost the appeal of the A League; once again a flawed approach. Too many of the A League License owners are not football fans and have bought into the league for reasons other than a love of the game. (We do however appreciate their support, but they too would have more joy with the right people running their clubs). They may be successful businessmen but what do they really know about football, the pride and the passion that has made it such a success worldwide.

Sadly in the last two years Football has slipped back to being a second tier sport in Australia and anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves. The growth of interest following qualification for the 2006 World Cup was never capitalized upon, and as stated previously the game did not learn from the mistakes made in 1974. The bonus was this time Australia backed that qualification up by making it to consecutive World Cups, but again the game did not capitalize on the interest or the achievement. With all the state bodies frantically producing their Annual reports it is worrying to hear that participation numbers in a World Cup year in some states are in fact down.

The World Cup bid gave the game the perfect chance to go out and talk to the masses, to take the game to the people that were joining the “Come Play” website and giving their wholehearted support, but again an opportunity was missed with 90% of all events linked to the bid being held in Sydney.

The meeting being held this week will discuss a later start to the A League season. There is merit in that as the start currently coincides with the AFL and NRL finals series. However if you had people who believed in the game, the product, and the brand that is the A league they would believe that with the right marketing you could still compete.

The biggest problem with the Hyundai A League is the lack of marketing. All of the FFA’s focus has been on the Socceroos and then the World Cup bid. The A league is the foundation on which those two are built and will need to be built in the future, so it is essential that the foundations are strong.

The game in Australia needs local heroes. Each club needs heroes that they can promote to the local community and the children in that community. Without heroes there are no players tomorrow.

This season has been an absolute disaster with the fixturing all over the place. At one stage some teams had played three more games than others, and the league table actually told you nothing as no one had played the same amount of games. How can fans get excited about that? The midweek games as well have created problems. Here in the West we often fail to see them with a three hour time difference. If we are to have midweek games link them to the round played that weekend, or have all teams play midweek split over Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday. Teams that play on the Friday play on the Tuesday, Saturday on the Wednesday and Sunday on the Thursday where possible.

Look at the travel component with the away fixtures, so that teams who are on the road for a week. Have them stay interstate, play Friday, Wednesday and Sunday to give them ample time to recover; which will ensure a better spectacle which in turn makes the game easier to market. It would save on airfares and you may even get keen fans travel with the team for a week.

Sort out the refereeing, as stated before on this site, “>Blowing the Whistle. The standard has not moved with the game and now is at an all time low. What makes it all the more hard to take is the fact that the Commentators with the tie in between Fox and the FFA are loathe to criticize. Yet these referees need that criticism in order to improve. As was stated by Mark Bosnich on Fox Sports FC we need to establish our style of football, and referee according to it. Despite the same rules the world over it is a known fact that Spanish referees interpret the rules differently from an Italian who interprets differently to an Englishman and so on. We need to cut out petty stoppages and bookings and let the game flow more. Try and keep the games eleven a side, which is what the spectators want to see.

The league does not need a major overhaul. It needs tinkering with, and most importantly a marketing budget put in place for the league as a whole, and the clubs to be aided with their individual marketing. The clubs similarly need to remember their target audience and not try and been too clever or for that matter cheesy in their promotions. No fan likes to be treated like an idiot.

The Hyundai A league needs input from the players, past and present, from people who know the game and have a passion for it. If you bring these parties to the table it will not need a facelift, just a facial. The sad thing is it has to regain the ground that has been lost if it is to climb up to being rightfully a first tier sport.

December 9, 2010 at 6:17 pm Leave a comment

Why So Much Negativity?

Can someone please answer why every story on South Africa and the 2010 World Cup being run on television is Australia takes such a negative approach? Most of the issues that have been and are being raised have existed in the country for a number of years, it is not like they have suddenly been discovered, so why the sudden interest?

As someone who travelled to this country extensively for 12 years, it is extremely sad. South Africa is a wonderful country with, in the majority of cases wonderful people. It has a set of problems that are different to any western country due to the oppression of apartheid, and a period of transition. What is so remarkable is that following the elections in 1994 and the official end of Apartheid, there were not more problems. Those in charge deserve immense credit for that, as do the Blacks, Indians, Asians and Coloureds who suffered so much under the old regime.

It is a shame that we have to highlight all the negative issues rather than celebrate the achievements of a country reborn. How many countries highlighted the bad side of Australia leading into the 2000 Olympics – and let us not sweep things under the carpet, we too have areas of which we should not proud.

If these journalists and television stations are genuinely concerned about these issues let us see how much coverage they give them once the World Cup Caravan leaves South Africa?

Is the negativity aimed at South Africa, if so it could be damaging to trade relations, as it has been so one-eyed and negative, or is it a chance to take a swipe at the World game, and try and suppress the coverage it has gained in the last five years?

Then again maybe we are overreacting, but we hope that the tournament is a raging success and theses doomsayers spend the whole world cup having to trump up stories as the local African people give the World an event the like of which we will never have seen before.

May 31, 2010 at 3:07 pm 1 comment

African Administrators Score an Own Goal

On Monday the 25th of January in the wake of the terrorist attack on the Togo team bus and the team’s decision to head home, CAF (Confederation of African Football) chief Issa Hayatou was quoted by the BBC as saying “We did not disqualify them – we simply noted their departure, we wished they would have stayed but respect their decision to leave.”
He and CAF then ridiculously banned the Togo side from the next two African Cup of Nations claiming there was “Political interference” in their decision to depart the competition in Angola.
This again shows a sports administration so out of touch with its members that it is not funny. In 1980 the USA boycotted the Moscow Olympics for political reasons, yet did the IOC ban the USA from competing in the next two Olympics?
The delegates at most of the ruling bodies in sport are so protected in their five star hotels and first class travel that they frequently forget that the people who make their lifestyles possible, the humble player. To have been involved in that ambush and to witness teammates shot would be something that would haunt you for the rest of your life. This is a time for sympathy not highhanded political grandstanding.
The World is heading to Africa in the next four months for the greatest show on earth, the World Cup Finals. If CAF does not bow to public opinion and reverse this opinion, it would be nice to see the football fans from around the world show their support for Togo, by wearing a badge of some kind. This form of mass, silent protest has the power to send a strong message to the likes of Hayatou in his ivory tower, but hopefully by then sense will have prevailed.

February 4, 2010 at 8:18 am Leave a comment

The World Game, But Not If You Live In Singapore!

Football is the national game of Singapore, yet at the present time it looks like in June and July of this year this small nation will be a World Cup Free Zone.

The reason is simple the game’s governing body is currently reported as asking for $40 million for the complete 64 match package. In 2006 Starhub reportedly paid $15million for the rights.

This price hike is too much to bear for the small nation and the Government have said unless a consortium comes up with the money then no games may be shown live in Singapore.

Four years ago all of the residents chipped in with $25 to assist in paying for the rights, with the cost rising by $25Million in four years they are not likely to be asked to assist with hundreds of dollars per household.
So far 209 countries have secured the broadcast rights, which if they are, as we are lead to believe not dependent on country population that is a massive revenue raiser for FIFA.

Surely if it is “the greatest show on earth” you need to make it available to as many people on earth to make such a claim?

January 29, 2010 at 12:45 pm Leave a comment

Is The Phoenix a Pawn in Football Politics?

A Phoenix is a bird that supposedly burns itself on a Pyre and re-invents itself. Is this the same fate that awaits the Wellington Phoenix Football Club?

It is interesting to read the arguments currently raging between the FFA and the AFC about the Football Federation of Australia having a New Zealand team in its competition. The Asian Football Confederation threatening to ban Australian sides from the lucrative Asian Champions League unless the Wellington Phoenix is dumped by 2012 from the Hyundai A League.

One has to ask would this issue have arisen had New Zealand failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa?

It was our understanding that FIFA approved Australia leaving the Oceania Confederation in favour of the Asian Confederation, as long as they continued to try and assist their neighbouring nations in improving their football. Which the Phoenix’s inclusion in the Hyundai A League has obviously done.

One has to question the value of the Oceania Confederation at all, as it is far and away the weakest in the whole FIFA set up. As suggested previously it would be better to have the winners of Oceania then drawn in an Asian group and to play games of quality in order to qualify for key tournaments rather than, as Australia did before, play only two meaningful games a year.

If this is not about New Zealand’s improvement, and the fact that the Phoenix may soon be challenging for an Asian Champion’s League slot, could it be about Australia having two berths in this lucrative competition?

As reported on this blog before Australia forced the issue saying that they would send the Grand Final winners if they only had one team qualify, despite the AFC saying that they would only recognise the team who finished top of the League ladder.

Then again it may also be a ruse to undermine Australia’s world cup bids, to put the ‘new boy’ back in his box and put their weight behind the bids of long term AFC Members, such as Indonesia, Japan, Qatar, and South Korea.

December 22, 2009 at 9:16 am Leave a comment

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