Asian disaster shows Australia's limitations

Australian club football has received a massive kick up the backside after the three A-League teams' disastrous start to this year's AFC Champions League campaign.

Western Sydney Wanderers

Western Sydney Wanderers' midfielder Mitch Nichols reacts after the AFC Asian Champions League loss to China's Shanghai SIPG. Source: AFP

Two rounds into the competition, humiliated Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar must be wishing they had never qualified for the continent's blue riband event.

After the match in China versus Jiangsu to complete match day two, Adelaide United are likely to feel the same way.

The shambolic displays from the three clubs so far came as a shock to those who believed that the A-League had finally come to grips with the demands of playing in Asia.

Events in the last two weeks, however, illustrate that we still have a long way to go to be able to match the Japanese, Koreans and now the money-laden Chinese on a regular basis.

The ACL shambles is only part of the problem Australian football is facing as it tries to leave its mark domestically and abroad.

The spectacular collapse of our three clubs is symptomatic of a general malaise afflicting our game that leads us to the very top: Football Federation Australia.

There is no doubt that there is widespread discontent within the game.

The clubs are unhappy and so are many players and fans. The media is losing its patience with the state of our stagnant game.

Here are a few issues that people are talking about and which need to be dealt with as soon as possible because the game cannot afford this level of frustration to carry on with no action seemingly being taken to stem it.

a) FFA should stop treating the game's stakeholders with an iron fist and recognise that the game is everyone's not the domain of a select few. The football field is where the game is played and it's that area - not head office - that determines success or failure.

b) The governing body should do much more to help A-League clubs that are involved in Asia. Schedules should be altered to give our clubs the best opportunity to succeed. It is not that hard.

c) The salary cap has served its purpose and it's about time we get rid of it. Our clubs cannot compete with minimal squads. Time will prove that the Wanderers' triumph three years ago was a one-off. The intended balance and equality in our domestic competition are just not happening.

d) FFA should be more tolerant of criticism from within and outside the game. Anybody from the 'family' who is game enough to have a go at how the game is run is branded as negative or even ostracised. And woe betide any non-football person who dares criticise our game: accusations of 'anti-football mafia at work' would not take long to surface. Non-football people can be right sometimes, you know.

e) The governing body should be more transparent and forthright in their dealings with the game's stakeholders. All too often FFA appear to be taking people for a ride by their vague press releases and by promising things and not delivering. Most football people do not have faith in FFA, anymore.

f) FFA's hands are tied to such an extent that Oxford Street cannot make what would appear to be logical football decisions due to the fact that it has to please so many bodies. Hence their reluctance to schedule league matches in a way that best suits the players' needs not the broadcaster's.

g) FFA should recognise the game's limitations and work on its several weaknesses and stop pretending football is making other sports in Australia tremble in their boots. We have a big enough fight on our hands to survive, to afford the added distraction of fighting other codes. The way we're going we are as likely to become the top sport in Australia as we are of winning the FIFA World Cup.

h) FFA often claim that they hear what people have to say about the game that is at a crossroads. But hearing is not enough. They should listen and stop dismissing critics as people who are unqualified to offer strong opinions or, worse still, threaten media organisations with 'exclusion' if they did not comply.

These are some of the issues that rile thousands of fans, without whom there will be no game.

And on this occasion we won't even talk about expansion, second division, distribution of funds, the running of the A-League and refereeing standards.

Would be nice if the FFA gave their side of the story because the natives are getting very restless out there.

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5 min read
Published 1 March 2017 at 12:22pm
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS