南京夜网

On target – thumbs up as greats rate A-League an ‘A’

AUSTRALIA’S footballing future depends on the A-League. And, having attracted several high-profile foreign players, as well as luring back some of Australia’s finest – including Jason Culina, John Aloisi and Stan Lazaridis – there’s reason to believe the league is a solid and growing force.Not everyone is convinced. Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek has equated the domestic football centrepiece to little more than a European league training session. Crowds, ratings and playing standards are unpredictable. And the fragility that once plagued the code locally is not yet entirely a relic.So, more than four years since its inaugural season, is the A-League on the right track? Is it strong? Which clubs have got it right? And, perhaps most importantly, is the league going to produce the kind of players needed to keep the Socceroos moving into the realm of world football’s elite?”Absolutely,” former Socceroo Ray Baartz says. ”I wish I had those opportunities when I was young. The full-time professionalism, the grounds, the coaching, the training … I think everything is in the players’ favour now. If they’re good enough and they’re keen enough, the opportunities are unlimited.”However, Baartz, who played at Manchester United as a teenager in the 1960s and later played 48 internationals, fears that despite the new professionalism, some teams are playing too negatively.”That’s my only criticism,” he says. ”The build-ups are too slow, which is resulting in some teams not creating enough opportunities to score, which is what the crowds want. I’d like to see more emphasis on attacking play.”Nevertheless, Baartz believes faith should continue to be placed in locally produced coaches. He also believes the league will increasingly encourage young players to stay in Australia longer.”I think we’ve got coaches here who are capable of getting the players to approach the game in the right way,” he says.”The competition is a high standard and players can now look to establish themselves here and then maybe go overseas. There’s no point going to minor leagues overseas and struggling when there is a good option here now.”Lazaridis, another one-time star Socceroo, believes the world financial crisis – and the resulting comparative conservatism of European clubs – might force players to stay in Australia longer. It could also influence more good foreign players to come because ”it’s a half-decent league and they can earn a half-decent wage here now”.Lazaridis, who returned from England to play briefly with Perth Glory, says the true merit of the A-League will be evident after next year.”After this World Cup you’re going to see players step aside and that’s when we’ll start to find out if the A-League is producing what we need,” he says.Lazaridis believes the clubs on the best path are Melbourne Victory – ”their crowds have been good and they play good football” – and the Central Coast Mariners.”The Mariners continually finish well, their crowds are stable and they’re careful with their money,” he says. ”They haven’t had big-name stars, yet they keep doing well.”But there are problems.”Probably the big concern for me is the financial stability of the clubs,” he says. ”Adelaide is being run by the FFA, Brisbane is in a bit of strife, Perth was struggling. Each club needs to get 10,000 through the door every week.”One way to do that, he believes, is to stop showing live coverage of matches in their home cities.”I think that’s scaring away 1000 people,” he says.”The TV money is very important, but other sports put games on delay in the home city, so football should, too. My friends go to the pub and spend $20 or $30 watching a match instead of going to the game and spending that money.”Some clubs are still struggling, but a third former Socceroo, Jim Fraser, believes it’s natural. ”The league, like any business, suffered from initial problems of hype followed by a downturn,” says Fraser, who coached Sydney FC’s goalkeepers and now works with their youth team.”The same thing happened with the J-League in Japan, which nearly died and then picked up again. Same in the United States.”Fraser, however, believes it’s encouraging to see the way struggling clubs have rebounded.”Most clubs so far have had a bad year. Melbourne were terrible in the second or third year but bounced back. Central Coast, Newcastle … the clubs are all learning lessons.”I think things are improving and the league is now pretty much an even playing field. The salary cap seems to have worked, there’s no real runaway clubs and I think the model is solid. It looks to me like the basis is there for it to become a strong competition. I don’t think it’s in any danger any more of falling over.”A key to the future, Fraser believes, has been the successful introduction of the youth competition.”With that in full swing now, the A-League is going to produce the kinds of players we need to keep improving at international level.”
Nanjing Night Net

南京夜网

Maradona’s profane rant to result in FIFA inquiry

DIEGO MARADONA’S profanity-filled tirade on live television after Argentina qualified for next year’s World Cup will lead FIFA’s disciplinary committee to open a case against the former great.During the press conference after Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Uruguay, Maradona, on live television, grabbed his genitals and told reporters to ”keep on sucking”.”The reports we have received so far leave us no other alternative but to ask the disciplinary committee of FIFA to open a case against the coach Diego Armando Maradona,” FIFA president Sepp Blatter said.”As the president of FIFA it is my duty and my obligation to [refer] it to the disciplinary committee.”Blatter declined to further discuss the matter. ”It is now a matter of the FIFA jurisdiction to go into this,” he said.Maradona, who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title and the 1990 final, had been under intense pressure during Argentina’s stuttering qualifying campaign, which included a 6-1 loss in Bolivia and a 3-1 loss to Brazil at home.”The qualification of Argentina has been expected everywhere in the world,” Blatter said. ”Argentina is a powerhouse in football and always has been. Therefore, we welcome the team of Argentina.”Although Argentina won their final two qualifying matches, both were scrappy wins with late goals – although a draw against Uruguay would have been enough to claim a spot at next year’s tournament in South Africa as one of the top four South American teams.Before the win over Uruguay, striker Martin Palermo scored three minutes into injury time to give Argentina a 2-1 victory over Peru.Before the wins, polls showed a majority of Argentina’s fans thought Maradona was unfit to coach the national team despite his success as a player.Maradona stood his ground in a radio interview before Blatter made his announcement.”[My comments were] a very big outburst after a week of many criticisms,” Maradona said. ”If someone feels wounded, I’ll apologise if they want. And if not, I’m sorry.”However, later in his interview with Argentina’s Radio Continental, he said: ”I have nothing to apologise for.”He called his media critics ”anti-Argentine”, saying he won’t forgive them for wanting ”Argentina to be left out of the World Cup”.Argentine Football Association president Julio Grondona, who appointed Maradona and is Blatter’s No.2 official at FIFA, said that, ”if it were another coach or player, the matter would not have had such importance”.Grondona said: ”Everybody knows he’s a temperamental person and he’s already said he won’t speak like that again.”Grondona said he would discuss the issue with Blatter, but predicted the comments would soon blow over.
Nanjing Night Net

南京夜网

Emerton juggles derby dynamite

HE PLAYED two important games for the Socceroos in the past week but Brett Emerton is braced for 90 minutes of total pressure and scrutiny tomorrow in one of the English Premier League’s great rivalries – the Rovers v the Clarets.Emerton will play for Blackburn Rovers against recently promoted Burnley FC – a team based just 12 kilometres from Ewood Park and one that has a 125-year blood rivalry with the Rovers.Emerton left Melbourne just hours after playing his part in securing a 1-0 Asian Cup win over Oman on Wednesday to prepare for the two teams’ first clash in the top flight in 43 years.The week leading into the derby has been staggering, even for Emerton, who has played in the Dutch league and a World Cup campaign. It has included:❏ A beefed-up police presence to quell possible violence across East Lancashire;❏ Historians dredging up moments of valour on the field between the two clubs – and examples of horror off it;❏ Former Blackburn Rovers captain Tim Sherwood describing the game as his old club’s ”biggest” in ages;❏ An opera singer being dragged into a 30-year debate between the two clubs over ”ownership” of the song Wandering Rover .Despite the obvious emotion, former Rovers great Derek Fazackerley urged his club’s large roster of foreign-born players to appreciate what the match means to their fans.”This game is definitely for the fans,” the veteran of 674 games told The East Lancashire Telegraph . “At the end of the season, even if you have finished below your rivals in the league, at least you can say: ‘We won both derby games’.”This game is still massive for the fans, it really is. Particularly with Burnley coming from the Championship, it is the first opportunity to play Blackburn as a Premier League side. Both sets of fans will want to win for local pride.”It is not quite the same for the players. I suppose Burnley are more of an English side, so their players will have seen this sort of rivalry before and perhaps more than Blackburn’s because they have been an established Premier League side for so long.”Emerton, one of the foreign-born players Fazackerley referred to, fully realises the significance of the clash and conceded the pressure was on him to perform.”It’s a massive game, it’s the local derby and everyone takes an interest in it,” he said. ”This was the first game the people here [Blackburn] looked for when the draw was announced.”I spoke to someone about this game and I think they got it right when he compared the intensity to The Ashes. I thought that was a good comparison because this [fixture] means so much to our supporters and to the people of Blackburn.”While helping Australia nut out a 0-0 draw with the Dutch and a desperate 1-0 victory over Oman was gruelling, Emerton needed little prompting to get his head in the right space for the match that will bring East Lancashire to a standstill at 1pm local time.”You really do try to take it one game at a time because each game does require a different approach,” said Emerton, when asked how he could mentally prepare in time after his action-packed week in Australia.”I thought the most important thing was for me to return to the UK and get on the field in the best possible shape to perform well on Sunday.”I’m in the same position as all my teammates, I have to perform and I have to play well because we really need [competition] points.”Burnley is one of those teams that don’t have a stand-out player but the reason why they are doing so well is simple – they play as a team and for each other. I think of us like that. It’s going to be a great game, a wonderful experience.”Goalkeeper Brian Jensen, who has played a mighty role in Burnley being the only newly promoted team to win their first four Premier League home games, warned the derby was not for the faint-hearted.”It’s hostile. The fans don’t like each other and make it known verbally,” Jensen said. “The atmospheres are good and this will probably be the best so far.”But when it comes down to it, it’s just football and it’s nice to be involved in those games.”Fazackerley was also aware of the potential for violence and said it was his hope “the game is played in the right spirit with no trouble”.The local law enforcement was determined that would be the case, with Lancashire Constabulary Superintendent Chris Bithell vowing troublemakers would be quickly dealt with. “We want this game to be remembered for what happens on the pitch,” he said.
Nanjing Night Net

南京夜网

So-called beautiful game has its ugly side exposed

FOOTBALL may be known as ”the beautiful game” but off the pitch it has been pock-marked by the dubious dealings of the world governing body, FIFA.In his explosive 2006 book, Foul!: The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals , investigative reporter Andrew Jennings detailed many instances of FIFA bosses abusing their power while seemingly remaining a law unto themselves.Among those in Jennings’s firing line was FIFA vice-president Jack Warner from Trinidad and Tobago.The controversial West Indian owned a travel company that obtained exclusive rights to Soca Warrior supporters wanting tickets to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.FIFA’s ethics committee found that Warner, who obtained 1774 tickets from Trinidad and Tobago’s official allocation of 10,749, had violated its ethics code on six counts. Unable to discipline Warner, the ethics committee referred the matter to FIFA’s executive committee.However, it took no action against Warner because he had sold his share in the company.As president of CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football), Warner controls 35 of the 207 votes that FIFA president Sepp Blatter needs for re-election.Blatter is no stranger to scandal himself – bribery allegations surrounded his ascension to the top job in 1998.London newspaper, the Daily Mail , reported that 18 African votes promised to rival candidate Lennart Johansson in the election had instead gone to Blatter after ”Arab backers knocked on hotel doors in the dead of night”.Somalian FA president and African Football Confederation (CAF) vice-president Farah Addo said he was offered money – which he rejected – to switch his vote.”We at CAF had decided to commit all 51 of our votes to Lennart Johansson … then I received a phone call from Somalia’s ambassador to one of the Gulf states,” Addo told the Mail. ”He said, ‘I have a friend who you know who wants to offer you [US] $100,000 to switch your vote – half in cash and the rest in sports equipment. They would send the cash to me or I could go to the Gulf to collect it’.”The night before the election in Le Meridien Hotel in Paris, people were lining up to receive money. Some told me they got $5000 before the vote and the same the next day, after Blatter won.”
Nanjing Night Net

南京夜网

Hayne’s No.1 but won’t get that jersey

JARRYD HAYNE might be the No.1 player in the game – and The Sun-Herald player of the year – but the Parramatta star has conceded he is almost no hope of unseating Billy Slater from the No.1 jersey for the Kangaroos’ Four Nations tour.In a stunning admission ahead of their departure for Europe, Hayne conceded that rival fullback Slater had the custodian jersey ”pretty much wrapped up”.Hayne has been in sublime touch this season and almost single-handedly lifted the Eels to their unlikely grand final berth after the wooden spoon appeared a more likely proposition midway through the season.This time last year Hayne was playing for Fiji, but a purple patch of form has earned him a Dally M medal, another crack at an Australian jersey and plaudits from his peers. Johnathan Thurston even described Hayne as the game’s best player, a title normally reserved for the Cowboys, Queensland and Australian playmaker.And in the latest honour to come his way, The Sun-Herald has named Hayne the top of this year’s class, pipping several big-name candidates – including Slater.Despite the accolades, Hayne isn’t expecting to be named at fullback when Australian selectors unveil their team for Saturday’s clash against World Cup holders New Zealand at Twickenham.”No, I don’t think so. Billy has got it pretty much wrapped up,” Hayne told The Sun-Herald. ”If anything was to happen, I’ll be available and happy [to fill in].”It’s all about getting onto the field at the moment, there are a lot of good players here. I’m just more worried about being in that starting 13.”Hayne, who inked a multimillion-dollar deal with Parramatta during the week, revealed his intention to become a one-club man.”I can’t see myself playing for any other club, I’ve been there since I was a baby,” he said.”It would be really tough for me to leave something like Parra.”The only thing left to tick off Hayne’s to-do list is a premiership win. The Eels came agonisingly close to Melbourne in the decider, but a nervous start proved costly.However, the 21-year-old believes the club now has the playing staff and experience to go one better next season.”I think so, the trend is that you’ve got to lose one to win one,” Hayne said.”That’s the way it’s been over the last couple of years so hopefully that continues. When you lose one you try not to remember it and just look forward.”Hayne might have forced his way back into the Australian squad, but he’ll be keeping a close eye on the other team he has represented at international level, Fiji, in coming weeks.The Bati are the top seeds in the Pacific Cup and will kick off their campaign against a qualifying nation at Lloyd Robson Oval in Port Moresby this Saturday.The winning team from this tournament will compete against Australia, England and New Zealand at next year’s Four Nations.The Eels’ star described his time playing for Fiji in last year’s World Cup as the catalyst for his stunning turnaround on and off the field.”It was great, it opened my eyes and look what I’ve done,” Hayne said. ”I’ll continue to have something to do with them and I hear a lot from them, their board members and players. I keep in contact with them and it’s good.”Fiji’s assistant coach, Max Ninnes, said Hayne left the team camp a different person to the one who came in. However, Hayne almost missed out on the life-changing experience.”He was lucky to make the plane,” Ninnes recalled.”The Australian team wasn’t announced until the day before we left for Fiji.”The day before we left we got on the blower [after Hayne was omitted from the Kangaroos World Cup squad] and told him he had to do this and that to join us. It was such a rush.”I was on the train when his mother rang me asking ‘what does he have to do?’ I was going to the airport at the time. His grandmother looked after him and brought him to the plane.”More accustomed to the luxury digs the Kangaroos took for granted, Hayne was initially taken aback by the third-world conditions his adopted team experienced in Fiji. On more than one occasion, Hayne quipped, ”What have you got us into, Max?”.However, the experience had such an impact on him that Hayne refuses to rule out the prospect of again representing the Bati in the future.”After a while he started to realise he was Fijian. That’s pretty important,” Ninnes said.”He was adamant before we played Australia [in the World Cup] that they all go and get a tattoo. We’re talking a day before the game. That’s how important the experience was to him. Thankfully we talked him out of doing it the day before the game.”
Nanjing Night Net