A-League’s ma­tu­rity brings prob­lems

Sea­son kick-off clashes with vi­tal World Cup play-off

World Soccer - - World Service - SI­MON HILL

Gain­ing trac­tion in a crowded – and oc­ca­sion­ally hos­tile – sport­ing mar­ket is not easy for Aus­tralia’s A-League. And as the young com­pe­ti­tion hits its teenage years, the land­scape has been fur­ther com­pli­cated by some self-in­flicted wounds.

The on­go­ing row over the make-up of the Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion Aus­tralia (FFA) congress is threat­en­ing to drag on un­til late Novem­ber, with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from FIFA and the AFC hav­ing ar­rived and left with­out be­ing able to bro­ker a com­pro­mise be­tween the war­ring fac­tions. A-League club own­ers and the FFA are at log­ger­heads over how many seats the for­mer should have in a newly ex­panded assem­bly, along with con­flict­ing views on the dis­tri­bu­tion of money from a re­cently signed TV deal that is worth $346mil­lion over six years.

In ad­di­tion, the na­tional team, which has so of­ten been a uni­fy­ing force, some­how stum­bled out of the

au­to­matic World Cup qual­i­fy­ing spots and has to go through the play-offs in a bid to make the fi­nals in Rus­sia. Un­for­tu­nately for the do­mes­tic game, the hugely im­por­tant two-legged game against Syria be­gins on the A-League’s open­ing week­end.

How­ever, leav­ing aside all those dis­trac­tions, the 10-team com­pe­ti­tion should be as com­pet­i­tive as ever, even if the big city clubs are once again ex­pected to be the front run­ners.

Reign­ing cham­pi­ons Syd­ney have done well to avoid the an­nual cherry-pick­ing of suc­cess­ful teams by richer over­seas clubs. Only goal­keeper Danny Vukovic has de­parted by choice, join­ing Bel­gian side Genk, but coach Gra­ham Arnold has a handy re­place­ment in for­mer Ley­ton Ori­ent stop­per Alex Cisak. Arnold has also added for­mer Soc­ceroo full-back Luke Wilk­shire and Pol­ish in­ter­na­tional mid­fielder Adrian Mierze­jew­ski, while re­tain­ing Brazil­ian striker Bobo and Mi­los Ninkovic, who won the Johnny War­ren Medal last sea­son as the league’s best player.

Beaten in the Grand Fi­nal, Mel­bourne Vic­tory will be ex­pected to push Syd­ney all the way. Kevin Mus­cat has brought home cur­rent Soc­ceroo mid­fielder Mark Mil­li­gan and re-signed winger Kosta Bar­barouses to re­place Marco Ro­jas, who left for Heeren­veen in Hol­land.

Af­ter plenty of wran­gling, Vic­tory also held onto cur­rent in­ter­na­tional mid­fielder James Troisi, and with promis­ing 20-year-old de­fender Thomas Deng back from a loan spell at PSV and Rhys Wil­liams ar­riv­ing from Perth Glory, Mus­cat’s team have the po­ten­tial to go one bet­ter this time around.

West­ern Syd­ney Wan­der­ers had their an­nual mass turnover, with 14 play­ers de­part­ing and 10 com­ing the other way at the last count. Span­ish

Po­ten­tial...vic­tory boss Kevin Mus­cat (left) with new boy Mark Mil­li­gan

team-mates... new Syd­ney re­cruit luke Wilk­shire (left) and Bobo

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.