Jamie Ma­claren: Soc­cer player.

Jamie Ma­claren, 24, soc­cer player Soc­ceroos, SV Darm­stadt 98

The Saturday Paper - - Contents The Week - Jack Kerr

Foot­ball’s not al­ways about money. It wasn’t hard to turn down those [big money] of­fers to go to Asia af­ter last sea­son [at Bris­bane Roar]. I was 23 and I just felt that I owed it to my­self to try the Euro­pean dream. I think I made the right de­ci­sion, to come to a team [Darm­stadt] that dropped out of the Bun­desliga last sea­son and bridge that gap between A-League and Ger­man foot­ball.

As a foot­baller, it’s only a short ca­reer. So you can’t get an­gry at any player who chooses money over other things. But with me, I’m still at a pretty good age – I’d like to see if I’m good enough and able to score goals in a Euro­pean league, and what­ever hap­pens af­ter that hap­pens. A Ger­man of­fer doesn’t come around too of­ten. And I’ve worked too hard the past few sea­sons, put in con­sec­u­tive 20-goal sea­sons, and I feel like it was the right de­ci­sion to come to Europe.

Twelve months ago, there were op­tions. But the choice wasn’t in my hands. It was in Bris­bane Roar’s hands. I had an­other year left on my con­tract, and they didn’t want to sell me. I ac­cepted that, put my head down and fo­cused on put­ting in an­other good sea­son. From a busi­ness point of view, maybe it wasn’t the best thing for Bris­bane, be­cause it meant I walked away at the end of the next sea­son, when my con­tract ran out, as a free agent. That’s not re­ally my fault or prob­lem. In foot­ball, you have to look af­ter your­self and that’s what I did.

When you’re a free agent, you ef­fec­tively have all the power in the ne­go­ti­a­tion process. When you’re con­tracted, an­other club that wants to sign you will have to pay the club you’re at. When you’re a free agent, you don’t cost the new club any­thing in trans­fer fees, so, yeah, you’re able to ne­go­ti­ate cer­tain things that you oth­er­wise wouldn’t have been able to. You’re pretty lucky be­ing a free agent be­cause you have the ma­jor­ity of the power.

Any goal at in­ter­na­tional level is al­ways for your coun­try, for Aus­tralia. And the “A” I make with my fin­gers re­sem­bles that. Two fin­gers up from one hand, one across it from the other. When I was younger, do­ing the Young Soc­ceroos and the Oly­roos, I would al­ways cel­e­brate that way. Like when I scored against Turkey in the Un­der-20 World Cup, I did that. It was for peo­ple back home, watch­ing the games in the early morn­ing.

My mum was born in Malta. My dad was born in Scot­land. The play­ers here say, “You’re not Aus­tralian then.” But I’m Aus­tralian, mate. I was born there. Some of the guys here, they’re Ger­mans, but their par­ents are Turk­ish, so they’ll call them­selves Turk­ish. It’s the way it is in Europe. They’re more pa­tri­otic than us Aus­tralians. You look at our Soc­ceroos squad. I bet they’ve all got a par­ent from Europe or Africa.

My first in­ter­na­tional game at any level was for

Scot­land. The de­ci­sion to play for Scot­land was pretty easy – they were the first na­tion to get in touch. Aus­tralia didn’t want a bar of me when I was 16. Fun­nily enough, as soon as I got back from play­ing with Scot­land, Aus­tralia got in con­tact. It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence to play a cou­ple of games for Scot­land, but you have to choose the coun­try you feel most in your heart, and that was Aus­tralia.

If you doubt me, I’ll do ev­ery­thing I can to prove you wrong. At tri­als for the Vic­to­rian un­der-12 state team, the feed­back was I was too slow, didn’t have an at­tack­ing mind, that I wasn’t go­ing to progress. I took those words on board and worked on those things. When I was go­ing to Blackburn, there were peo­ple say­ing I wasn’t good enough to go to Eng­land. Even last year, the first three rounds I hadn’t scored. Fast­for­ward seven months, I won the [A-League’s] Golden Boot.

I’m not the most tal­ented foot­baller. I can ad­mit that. But I’m one that doesn’t give up. I’ll keep per­sist­ing. I’ll keep try­ing to learn, and I’ll keep try­ing to im­prove. I’ve got a twin brother who was a far bet­ter foot­baller than I was, but he was struck down by in­jury. My dad used to say to me, “Jamie, I wish you had your brother’s touch, but I wish your brother had your heart.” Not all foot­ballers have the per­fect at­tributes, but you find out that the ones who aren’t the most tal­ented have the big­gest work rate, and that’s what gets them through.

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