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.