Takes a look at the Dutchman
A-LEAGUE OR B-GRADE
The media, the public and most significantly, the football world has been giving Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek a bit flak of late regarding the Dutchman’s comments about the Australian A-League competition.
On February 24 Verbeek selected a 24-man squad made up entirely of A-League players for the Socceroo’s Asian Cup qualifying match against Kuwait on March 5.
However during the press conference to announce the team, Verbeek openly and candidly criticised the A-League and some of the players he had just selected for the presumable ‘easy’ qualifying game against a team ranked 125 in the world.
He described Melbourne players Danny Allsopp and Archie Thompson as “absolutely hopeless” during an earlier Socceroos game against Indonesia and was critical of Jason Culina’s decision to leave his European club in favour of the A-League’s new Gold Coast club.
So if he is so disapproving of the A-League and the Socceroos players who choose to compete in their home country as opposed to overseas, why does he select them for these matches?
To put it bluntly, it is because he has no other option.
We all know that he would love the luxury of selecting his number one players, but the these guys are playing in Europe. Iit’s crunch time in the English Premier League and co and overseas managers are not going to let other players go to the other side of the world without a fight.
So that leaves Verbeek with only one option – a second tier team.
Don’t get me wrong, the men playing in the A-League are still excellent athletes and incredibly skilful football players, but they just aren’t up to the standard of the top stars earning hundreds of thousands of dollars overseas. And quite frankly, neither is our national competition.
The number one argument that has been floated around for years is the fact that football/soccer isn’t Australia’s number one football code (just the fact that we call it ‘soccer’ is evidence enough!)
With rugby league, rugby union and Australian rules dominating the broadcast rights and the popularity stakes, does football even stand a chance?
I know, I know, other countries have more than one football code too. England has its league (well, it thinks it does) and I guess they are pretty good in union (let us never talk of Jonny Wilkinson’s boot again), but really, football is ‘their thing’. Go into any English pub, school, hell – even supermarket or movie cinema, and you’ll realise that Poms live and breathe football. And their national competition(s) highlight this. Yes they haven’t won a major international tournament in years and failed to even qualify for the 2008 European Championships, but come on, with the likes of Gerrard, Lampard and Rooney – you know they’re good!
Apart from the Brits, no other nation plays as many footy codes as we do. New Zealand barely register on the football world rankings, Americans couldn’t beat our Wallabies in a rugby match if we allowed them to wear helmets and South Africans wouldn’t know a good rugby league dummy-half if it kicked them in the butt.
So what does this mean? That Australians play too many sports? Ahh the old ‘tall poppy’ syndrome. Good on us I say. But where does that leave us in creating and maintaining a credit football code and producing reputable international players?
Like I said, this has long been the excuse as to why we simply can’t match it on the world’s stage. Yes we made it to the second round of the 2006 World Cup, but that was three years ago. So what’s the solution?
What’s the answer? Simple – there isn’t one. Unfortunately for Pim Verbeek, he is left to play the hand he has been dealt. The guys from Europe aren’t coming, so he has had to play with a team made up of the ‘best’ the A-League has to offer. And unfortunately for those selected players, they will probably be constantly reminded that their coach didn’t want them; they were just second best. R
ecently the Socceroos played out a 0-0 draw against Japan in World Cup qualifier. Of the 18 players selected, only three were current A-League players. And given that Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Brett Emerton were on the sidelines injured, it’s likely/possible that these three A-Leaguers were only in the squad to make up numbers.
Pim Verbeek didn’t have the players he wanted at his disposable for the match against Kuwait. And yes, Australia probably will win the match and I hear your arguments that it will give these young guys the chance to pull on the green and gold shirt.
But the Socceroos will face a much tougher contest when they resume their quest to qualify for the 2010 World Cup with a game against Uzbekistan on April 1, with additional qualifiers against Bahrain and Japan later in the year.
I am sure Pim Verbeek would have liked his boys to play as many games together before they head to South Africa next year.
On this occasion he wasn’t granted his wish. And understandably he was frustrated. Frustrated with the unavailability of his top squad and frustrated with the recent performances of the local guys.
And he voiced his frustration. And he was, IS, right.
And really, after the draw against the 137-ranked Indonesia, can you blame him?