Play­ers, not coaches, win games: Kurz


THEY faced ev­ery­thing from chok­ing smog, the threat of food poi­son­ing, ter­ror­ism fears, an ex­haust­ing sched­ule and fly­ing chunks of metal hurled by an­gry fans – and that was the easy part.

When Ade­laide United broke new ground for Aus­tralian soc­cer by reach­ing the 2008 AFC Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal it was a cam­paign played as much be­hind the scenes as on pitches across the globe.

The tour­na­ment was Ade­laide’s sec­ond suc­ces­sive Cham­pi­ons League tilt, and this time coach Aure­lio Vid­mar was leav­ing noth­ing to chance.

United had qual­i­fied through its 2006-07 A-League run­ner-up fin­ish be­hind Mel­bourne Vic­tory, launch­ing a se­ries that took it to South Korea, China, Viet­nam, Uzbek­istan and twice to Ja­pan.

Ul­ti­mately, the Reds’ fairy­tale failed to ma­te­ri­alise when they lost the two-leg grand fi­nal se­ries 5-0 (on ag­gre­gate) to Ja­pan’s Gamba Osaka. The sec­ond fi­nal, at Hind­marsh, was played on Novem­ber 12, 2008 – 10 years ago to­mor­row.

“One thing I cer­tainly learnt was the re­silience of our play­ers in those sit­u­a­tions,” Vid­mar said.

“We were put through the grinder a lot of times, but they just kept find­ing the lit­tle bit ex­tra ev­ery time.

“It was amaz­ing how they re­sponded. The club can get there again.”

The 2008 Cham­pi­ons League had be­gun in March, 2008, in the snow of South Korea’s Po­hang, a work­ing class city whose down­town was choked by smoke bil­low­ing from steel­works stacks.

But Po­hang’s pol­lu­tion was the least of the club’s wor­ries.

Later in the cam­paign, in north­ern China, for­mer Red Kris­tian Sarkies suf­fered a ter­ri­fy­ing mouth in­jury when a fan threw a chunk of metal at the mid­fielder, as the team left the park af­ter elim­i­nat­ing home team Changchun Yatai.

Then there was the fear of food poi­son­ing in Tashkent, Uzbek­istan, while se­cu­rity guards and bomb de­tec­tors were a con­stant pres­ence with the team bus af­ter the team’s ho­tel had pre­vi­ously been tar­geted by ter­ror­ists.

Ade­laide also em­ployed SA chef Camillo Crug­nale for the trip. Crug­nale took con­trol of United’s food prepa­ra­tion, im­port­ing Aus­tralia pasta, canned fruit, veg­eta­bles and bread. “Caj (Crug­nale) re­ally helped us get through, a cou­ple of other play­ers started to get crook af­ter the game, but we got through,” Vid­mar said.

The em­ploy­ment of Crug­nale was just one step in a de­tailed off-the-pitch op­er­a­tion de­signed to avoid “sur­prises”, and al­low play­ers and coaches to con­cen­trate on their on­pitch du­ties.

Vid­mar said the Reds’ back­room staff was the crit­i­cal fac­tor in United’s rise to the grand fi­nal, and will be the key if Ade­laide is to again climb the sum­mit of Asian foot­ball.

“In our sec­ond Cham­pi­ons League year (2008) we had (for­mer) team man­ager Ryan Peremiczko travel well be­fore us, vis­ited clubs that we were play­ing to do re­con­nais­sance and he stud­ied ev­ery­thing and gave us all the in­for­ma­tion we needed,’’ Vid­mar said.

“By the time we got to away games there was no sur­prises.”

Ade­laide still has a moun­tain of work to do to be­come a par­tic­i­pant in the 2020 AFC Cham­pi­ons League – the next avail­able in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal tour­na­ment for the club – but Vid­mar is con­fi­dent it can qual­ify. “I think this club should be fight­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the Cham­pi­ons League con­sis­tently,’’ said Vid­mar, not­ing pos­i­tive changes to the club be­tween step­ping out­side of the Reds bub­ble in 2010 and his re­turn this year.

“There’s more pro­fes­sion­al­ism, there’s a train­ing base (at Eliz­a­beth) now, two great pitches and a great place for the play­ers to pre­pare. We didn’t have that.” ADE­LAIDE United boss Marco Kurz down­played the im­por­tance of be­ing sharp to­day as two bril­liant minds in the A-League square off.

Both Kurz and his ad­ver­sary Tony Popovic are ca­pa­ble of spring­ing po­ten­tially match­win­ning moves.

Kurz, 49, was com­pli­men­tary about Popovic as Ade­laide braced for a hot Perth Glory.

The Reds boss stud­ied new Glory coach Popovic’s sys­tems up close when the sides drew 2-2 in a friendly be­hind closed doors at Hind­marsh in Septem­ber.

Both sides are un­de­feated in the A-League. Glory has seven points and the Reds five.

“They have good shape, a dif­fer­ent play­ing style, a good coach and the coach he did well in ev­ery club he trained (led),’’ Kurz said.

“It’s not easy to play against them, they are com­pact with five at the back and they are very fast and good in tran­si­tion, a good striker (Andy Keogh), he scored a lot of goals (three) in the last rounds.

“It’s up to the play­ers on the pitch to make what the coaches need.

“I think you need a good per­for­mance from both teams but it’s not up to the coaches.

“We are part of the game, but it’s not coaches against coaches.”

Kurz does have a wel­come se­lec­tion dilemma as the Reds search for a first A-League win of the sea­son at Hind­marsh af­ter two 1-1 draws with Syd­ney FC and New­cas­tle Jets.

Classy Ger­man mid­fielder Mirko Boland has re­cov­ered from the ad­duc­tor prob­lem which kept him out of the Jets draw and Cen­tral Coast 3-0 away win but not the FFA Cup fi­nal 2-1 win over Syd­ney.

Dis­ci­plined mid­fielder Vinni Lia is now healthy af­ter he, too, missed the Mariners clash be­cause of ill­ness.

Kurz sug­gested they could be in­cluded in the 11, de­pen­dant on what sys­tem he de­ploys against Glory.

“You know we can play a cou­ple of sys­tems, we can play a 4-2-3-1, we can play a 4-3-3, we played also last sea­son with a back five, ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble,’’ Kurz said.

“But both play­ers are fit and in the squad to­mor­row.”

Glory was ex­pected to land in Ade­laide last night, with Kurz say­ing he ex­pected more than 10,000 fans to show up for Re­mem­brance Round.

Marco Kurz

Tony Popovic

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