Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Getting Premier League tickets from Australia

I've never left the country before, so don't be too jealous, but tommorow I will be flying to London and taking in Chelsea v Newcastle on Saturday (hoping Mark Viduka gets a game).

I would like to offer some tips on getting Premier League tickets, for anyone who is thinking of doing this:

- First place to try is the Australian Supporters group (have a search in google, you will find one for most clubs), some of them have a process so that you can apply through them and get tickets to a game. I know Aresnal and Tottenham allow you to do this... just make sure you get in early, because often there is only a small window that you can make your applications, this is usually a little over 10 weeks out from the game.

- Try ringing the club, discussing the situation. They will help you work out the best way you can get tickets from them, this will probably involve becoming a member, unless it's one of the less popular clubs.

- Have a look at fan forums, they may have unofficial ticket exchange processes that don't require you to be a member. If you are only trying to get one or two tickets this might be a good way of doing it.

- Last resort is ticket onsellers. They will often charge well over 100 pounds for a ticket, but might be a good way to get one or two tickets. Just search in google for "Premier League tickets" or "Chelsea Tickets" etc.

I will be posting reports and photos of my experience here at some point...

Bye for now,

Monday, December 24, 2007

2007 in Review

This year has been an interesting one for football in Australia. The memories of the World Cup in 2006 are starting to fade, but the integration of Australia into the Asian Confederation has given great hope that football will continue to grow as a force in Australian Sport.

There has been a lot of football this year, really there has barely been a break - and for football fans, that's been great. The year started off with the conclusion of the A-leauge, as an Adelaide United fan, the 6-0 loss to Melbourne Victory in the grand final was hard to take, particuarly as two of Melbourne's goals were clearly offside, and we had a goal ruled out for offside when it cleary came of a Melbourne player. 4-1 certainly would have been a fairer scoreline, but full credit to the Victory who pushed the boundaries of the A-leauge, and proved that Aussie clubs could thrive - both on and off the pitch.

Adelaide and Sydney then took part in the Asian Champions leauge, there were some nice moments during this campaign - Sydney's first-up victory in China and tight contests with the eventual champions - Urawa. I felt Adelaide was unlucky, and when only one team from each group progresses to the knockout rounds, you need a bit of luck - Travis Dodd's hat-trick in the final game was the highlight for me though.

Meanwhile the European season was drawing to an end, West Ham's remarkable run to see them stay in the top flight was unforgettable. For many weeks it looked like we may see a grandstand finish to the EPL season, Chelsea and Man United were scheduled to face off in the final week, and when Chelsea had an opportunity to get within 2 points of United a week or so before this game, every neutral fan was hoping that this match may decide the premier league champions. In the end, Chelsea couldn't take advantage of the chances that Man United gave them to catch up - and Man United sealed the Premier League title a week out from the end of the season. Chelsea got one back a week later, winning a dull FA Cup final at Wembley.

AC Milan took out the UEFA Champions league, although Liverpool looked the better side for most of the game, then again Milan dominated much of the 2005 final, which Liverpool took out on penalties. It was also good to see Harry Kewell come back from injury late in the season, he would go on to do well in the Asian Cup for the Socceroos, and has eventually started to get some regular football for Liverpool in the current EPL season.

Anticipation was starting to rise for the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, a full strength Socceroos team was called up for the tournament, and the expectation was that Australia would take out the title. Unfortunately for Aussie fans, the tournament did not go well - in retrospect it seems that Graham Arnold and the FFA underestimated the tournament, players all had a break for a month or so before the tournament, and were obviously not fit enough to be at their best. Despite an opening draw, and a dissapointing loss - Australia hit back with a 4-0 win against Thailand to book their spot in the Quarter finals. Aussie fans began to hope that the Socceroos were coming into form at the right time, and after John Aloisi put Australia 1-0 up with 25 minutes to go in the Quarter final against Japan, it seemed that this was the case. Some lazy defending, however, allowed Japan to equalise. The Japanese were obviously fitter and from that point on were clearly the better side, Australia managed to take the game to a penalty shootout, but when both Kewell and Neill missed their penalties, Australia were as good as eliminated. It was encouraging, however, to see two A-league stars in David Carney and Nick Carle score penalties to keep the pressure on Japan, but no miricale was to occur and Australia bowed out.

On a more general level, the Asian Cup was a good touranment. The quality of football was good, and the tournament was well run. Unfortunately the crowds were poor in both Thailand and Malaysia - but good crowds in Indonesia and Vietnam meant that at least some games had a nice atmosphere. The temperature was also a problem, average temperatures in the mid-30s with high humidity made it very difficult for the players, this is something the AFC will have to look at, if the Asian Cup is going to grow into a really major tournament, then you can't have games played under those conditions - it's going to be a tricky problem to deal with.

A decent performance against Argentina and a win against Nigeria saw the Socceroos round out 2007 well. New coach Pim Verbeek was appointed when Dick Advocaat pulled out on the FFA at the last minute. 2008 will be an interesting year for the 'roos. The 2010 world cup qualifiers are the obvious fixture, with Australia in a tough group. It will be interesting to see how Australia deals with the problem of unavaliability of European players in their first couple of games - let's hope we can work out a system that will serve us well in the future.

Australia's women had a big tournament this year, a first up win and two impressive draws saw the Matlida's qualify for the Quarter finals of the Womens World Cup in China. It looked like a massive upset might be on the cards as Australia came back from 2-0 down to be level against Brazil in the Quarter final, however Brazil managed to find another goal and progress - they ended up cruising into the final of the tournament (which they did loose), which shows how close Australia came to a huge result in what was a very successful tournament.

Another Australian national team making waves in 2007 was the Olyroos. Australia's under-23 team faced a very difficult campaign to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, but they came through a very difficult group to reach the final stage of qualification with some impressive wins. Players like Kristian Sarkies, Nathan Burns, Bruce Djite, Mark Bridge, James Troisi, Neil Kilkeny, Mark Milligan and Adrien Leijer all impressed and look to have a good future. The team would end up topping their final round group (which was required for qualification) after a 2-0 victory over Iraq at a packed stadium in Gosford and a tense 1-1 draw in North Korea. It was a shame that most of the Olyroos games this year were not televised in Australia, particuarly when coveraged was produced for every game - and many countries across Asia had coverage of our games. Eventually SBS decided to show our game against Iraq and Fox Sports stepped in to show the final game against North Korea. Hopefully this trend will continue and we will start to see a lot more games invloving youth and womens teams (especially games in Asian competitions) broadcast.

Talking of football broadcasting, it has also been great to see Setanta Sports truly enter the Australian market through their transmission on Foxtel. Live coverage of international games, and games from several European leagues has seen Australia finally get up to standard as far as football coverage goes - there is still a lot of room for improvement though. Fox Sports also deserves a lot of credit for it's coverage of the English Premier league - the 'press red' feature and viewers choice has been very welcome, hopefully it won't be too long and every EPL game will be live on Fox Sports. It would be nice to see a little more coverage on FTA television, as that is really a requirement to continue growing the game - hopefully the rumors about Socceroos games being put back on FTA TV are true. It would also be nice to see the A-league (and prehaps EPL) highlights shows on FTA one day.

The A-league kicked off again for Season 3 in August. The first season of the A-league had the novelty factor of being season 1, and the second season was played only a couple of months after the 2006 World Cup - so Season 3 was always going to be a more difficult year for the A-league. Despite this, crowds are up overall - as are TV ratings and media interest. The Wellington Phoenix have replaced the NZ knights, and have impressed - although they will not make the finals, they have got some good results, played some good football and pulled in some big crowds. The quality of the football has prehaps been a bit lacking in season 3 of the A-league, but this is partly because the competition is more even this year. Sydney FC's 5-4 victory over the Mariners on Saturday was the best game the A-league has ever seen, so prehaps the trend of low-scoring matches is over. The season is delicately poised going into next year, hopefully we'll have a few more classic games as we get close to the finals.

The international football for the year concluded in November with the final round of Euro 2008 qualifying. Scotland came very close to knocking Italy - the World Champions - out of the tournament before it began, but in the end Italy had a little too much class. Class is something England ran out of as they crashed out at the hands of Croatia, thanks to some terrible defending and goalkeeping.

The European club season has been exciting and memorable as always. I look forward to visiting London next weekend to take in Chelsea v Newcastle. As always, the real drama will start occuring next year when trophies are on the line.

So what should we be looking forward to in 2008? There will certainly be some interesting developments around the A-league. Expansion is on the cards, and the Gold Coast Galaxy look set to be playing in the A-league next season. There is also a possibility that the Townsville Thunder will see a 10 team league in 2008/2009. New teams will be exciting, and hopefully they will both draw big crowds, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding how the 10 team league will work. I would love to see the season going 27 rounds into March/April and overlapping the champions league, but will there be problems with ground availability? Also, will international breaks be recognised? Will we have a few more midweek games? Will more games be played around the Christmas period? It will be a year of change for the A-league, and personally - I am excited.

A revamp of the Asian Champions league will also be considered next year, it is possible that we may see 3 A-league teams in the ACL for 2009, with the format of the ACL tinkered with - this is certainly necessary as the tournament does have it's problems - but it has a lot of potential.

2008 will again be a big year: World Cup qualifiers, Euro 2008 and the Olympic Games will be 3 highlights - let's hope it's a good year.

Bye for now,

Monday, November 26, 2007

Asian Cup/Qualifiers Scheduling

Next year, some of our World Cup qualifiers will not be played on full FIFA dates. Obviously this is a problem as clubs will not be releasing there players and we will have to field an A-league based Socceroo side.

This problem is, at heart, caused by the Asian Cup being played in 2007, rather than in 2008. Here are our match dates for next year:

Feb 6 Aus v Qatar (FIFA Friendly date)
March 26 China v Aus (FIFA Friendly date)
June 7 Aus v Iraq (FIFA tournament date - during Euro 2008)
June 14 Iraq v Aus (FIFA tournament date - during Euro 2008)
Sep 6 Qatar v Aus (Full FIFA date)
Sept 10 Aus v China (Full FIFA date)

As you can see, our first two games are during FIFA friendly dates, this means that if players are called up, clubs are required to release their players for only 48 hours. Obviously this is not long enough for them to come back to Australia.

Both games against Iraq are played in June, when clubs are required to release players as it is an "International period" when Euro 2008 takes place, we should be able to bring a decent squad back for those games - although some players may want rest.

Our last games on September 6 and 10 fall on a full FIFA date, players are required to be released for at least 4-5 days so we could get a strong squad back here.

Now the real problem is the first two games we play, we will be able to get back virtually no European players, and although we should be able to put out a decent, A-league based lineup it will make things difficult. If all our games were on full fifa dates, things would be easier - we probably wouldn't see every one of the Socceroo stars back in Australia for every game, but we could negotiate with clubs and see at least a few of our best players coming back for every match.

I'm sure the problem that Australia has is also an issue for the likes of Japan and Korea. If Asian football wants to grow, more and more asian players will need to start making an impact in Europe, and hence the problem that Australia is having will spread to even more nations eventually. Thus it is important to Asian football, that in the future all qualifiers are scheduled on full fifa dates.

How could this be achieved? Well fifa designs it's schedule based on the European teams having a major tournament every two years, the World Cup in 2006/2010 etc. and then the European Championships in 2008/2010 etc. The full fifa dates are designed for qualifying for these tournaments, European teams don't start qualifying for the World Cup untill after Euro 2008, thus full FIFA dates don't occur in the first half of next year, only friendly dates are scheduled. The AFC should realise this and should not have started World Cup qualifying early next year, but later in the year.

Here's the easy solution (note that there is obviously is no chance of a change for this qualifying campaign - but an example of what could be done in the future):

There is a full FIFA date from October 11 to October 15 next year, the two games from February 6 and March 26 could be moved to this date, bringing all World Cup Qualifying matches onto full fifa dates. There will be enough full fifa dates to ensure this also happens in 2009 with the final round of qualifiers.

The sensible thing to do, would be to hold the Asian Cup next year, rather than this year - World Cup qualifying could start in June, then teams could go off to the Asian Cup in July (which doesn't clash with Euro 2008), and then this round of World Cup qualifying could be concluded on the two, full fifa dates remaining in 2008.

This would work well, as 2007 would have been an easier year for our players, who do need rest - you could have had Asian Cup qualifying last year, but that is hardly as crucial as World Cup qualifying, and you wouldn't need to get all our best players back for every game (although there would still be more than enough designated dates for all games to be played on full fifa dates). Go back to 2006, and you would then have the entire year focused on just the World Cup, no Asian Cup qualifiers to worry about - and an easy second half of the year (although probably a friendly) for our players.

The reason that the 2007 Asian Cup was held in 2007, rather than 2008 was to avoid a clash with Euro 2008 and the Olympics - but this is hardly a problem. It would not be a direct clash anyway, Euro 2008 would have finished a week or so before the Asian Cup, while the Olympics would not be untill a few weeks after the Asian Cup had finished - yes media attention might have been lower given the other significant events happening next year, but it would have made a lot more sense, and long term it would be a lot better for Asian football.

Now obviously it's too late to make the suggested changes now, but going forward we have the chance to put the Asian Cup back to the "middle year" between world cups - the next Asian Cup is being played in January 2011, this is only a few months after the 2010 World Cup, and is going to leave a huge gap between major tournaments for the Socceroos and other major Asian nations. It is not too late to reschedule the tournament to January 2012. By 2016, the tournament could be back where it belongs - almost exactly in between world cups - July 2016.

The scheduling for qualifiers is then simple, 2015 would be all about Asian Cup qualifying, 2016 would have the Asian Cup as well as early World Cup qualifiers, 2017 would have the major round of World Cup qualifiers and 2018 would be devoted to friendlies and the World Cup.

It is the best way forward for Asian football.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Big Weekend of International Football

Massive, Massive week of international football this week. The centerpiece is the final round of Euro 2008 qualifiers, with a few other big games as well.

The biggest game of the week is probably Scotland v Italy. The winner will qualify for Euro 2008, while the looser is gone - and given the results Scotland have had lately, you'd have to say that it could easily go either way.

England's fate is also on the line - although their fate is not in their hands - if Russia beats Israel on Saturday morning, they will only need to beat minnows Andorra to qualify for Euro 2008 at England's expense. Lose or Draw in Israel, and England's fate is back in their own hands - they will need to beat Croatia at Wembley next wednesday to go through.

There's also a couple of important games for Australian fans. Firstly, on Saturday night the Olyroos place in the Beijing Olympics is on the line as they face Iraq in Gosford - only a win will do. The Socceroos are also in action against Nigeria in London.

Here's a schedule of the games/broadcast details:

Saturday Morning

-> International Friendly
Austria v England - Setanta Sports - 6:30am (LIVE)

Saturday Night / Sunday

-> 2008 Olympic Games Qualifier
Olyroos v Iraq - SBS - 10:15pm

-> International Friendly
Socceroos v Nigeria - Fox Sports 2 - 1am (LIVE)

-> Euro 2008 Qualifiers
Wales v Ireland - Setanta Sports - 1am (LIVE)
Scotland v Italy - ESPN - 3:25am (LIVE)
Israel v Russia - Setanta Sports - 4:30am (LIVE)
Germany v Cyprus - ESPN - 9:30am
Norway v Turkey - ESPN - 11:30am
Greece v Malta - Setanta Sports - 1:30pm
Poland v Belgium - Setanta Sports - 3:15pm

-> World Cup 2010 Qualifiers
Colombia v Venezuela - Setanta Sports - 7:30am (LIVE)
Paraguay v Ecuador - Setanta Sports - 11:40am (LIVE)
Argentina v Bolivia - Setanta Sports - 11:45am

Wednesday Morning

-> World Cup 2010 Qualifiers
Venezuela v Bolivia - Setanta Sports - 9am (LIVE)
Colombia v Argentina - Setanta Sports - 11:15am (LIVE)

Thursday Morning

-> Euro 2008 Qualifiers
Romania vs Albania - Setanta Sports - 2:30am (LIVE)
England vs. Croatia - ESPN - 6:25am (LIVE)
Ukraine vs France - Setanta Sports - 6am (LIVE)
Hungary vs. Greece - ESPN - 8:30am
Portugal vs Finland - Setanta Sports - 11:15pm Thursday Night

-> World Cup 2010 Qualifiers
Ecuador vs Peru - Setanta Sports - 8am (LIVE)
Brazil vs Uruguay - Setanta Sports - 10am (LIVE)
Chile vs Paraguay - Setanta Sports - 12pm (LIVE)


-> Euro 2008 Qualifiers
Germany v Wales - ESPN - 9:30am
Hungary v Greece - Setanta Sports - 9:30pm
Serbia v Poland - Setanta Sports - 11:15pm

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tommorow Night - the Scenarios

AFC Rules:

In the league system the ranking in each group is determined as follows:
i. Greater number of points obtained in all group matches;
ii. If two or more Teams are equal on the basis of the above criterion, their place shall be determined as follows:

a) Greater number of points obtained in the group matches between the Teams concerned;
b) Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the Teams concerned;
c) Greater number of goals scored in the group matches between the Teams concerned;
d) Goal difference in all the group matches;
e) Greater number of goals scored in all the group matches;
f) Kicks from the penalty mark if only two Teams are involved and they are both on the field of play;
g) Drawing of lots


Australia win, Oman fails to win -> Iraq top group, We go through ahead of thailand on virtue of head-to-head record.

Australia win 1-0, Oman wins 1-0 (generally if Oman and Australia both win by one goal) -> All teams on Four points, Iraq and Thailand go through on goal difference.

Australia win 1-0, Oman wins 2-0 (Generally if Australia win by one goal, Oman by two) -> All teams on four points, Thailand goes through with best goal difference, Iraq goes through on goals scored.

Australia win 2-0, Oman wins 1-0 (generally if Australia wins by two goals, Oman by 1) -> All teams on four points, Iraq goes through on goal difference, Australia goes through ahead of thailand on goals scored.

Australia win 2-0, Oman wins 2-0 (generally if both Australia and Oman win by two goals and scoreline is the same or Australia scores more goals) -> All teams equal points and goal difference, Australia and Iraq through on goals scored - If Australia score enough goals they could go top.

Australia wins 2-0, Oman wins 3-1 (generally if both Australia and Oman win by two goals and Oman score one more goals than Australia) -> All teams equal points and goal difference, Iraq goes through on goals scored, Australia and Oman must draw lots to decide who goes through.

Australia wins 2-0, Oman wins 4-2 (generally if both Australia and Oman win by two goals and Oman score two or more goals than Australia) -> All teams equal points and goal difference, Iraq and Oman through on goals scored (conspiracy theorists take note)

Australia wins by 3 goals, Oman win by less than 3 goals -> Iraq and Australia through, Australia could finish top if Oman win by two goals. If Oman were to win by one goal and Iraq score 1 goal (ie. 2-1) then lots would be drawn to determine group winner, if Oman were to win 1-0 then Australia would top group, 3-2 to oman or higher numbers would mean Iraq would top group.

Australia wins by 3 goals, Oman by 3 goals -> Australia and Oman through, Australia top on goals scored if scoreline is the same or more goals to Australia, if Oman score one more goal than Australia lots are drawn to determine group winner, if Oman score two more goals than Australia then Oman finish top.

Australia wins by 3 goals, Oman by more than 3 -> Australia and Oman through, Oman top.

Infighting and Australian Football - My Theory

Note the following is just a theory, it is something I believe to be close to the truth, in regard to what is happening to the Socceroos and Australian Football:


November 8, 2004: SBS wins the rights to Socceroos matches untill 2007, new CEO of Soccer Australia, John O'Neill is delighted that these games will be shown live around Australia on Free to Air Television.

January 1, 2005: Soccer is officially changed to Football, the revolution of Australian Football begins.

Ever since this revolution began, rivalries, differences of opinion and factions have been present throughout all areas of Australian Football. I'm not talking about the small disagreements, criticisms and opinions that are perfectly healthy in sport - I'm talking about a real hatred between certain areas of the football community.

It even extends to TV broadcasting. Since Soccer Australia became the Football Federation they have never signed any TV rights to SBS, clearly this is not just because of the money Fox Sports have offered them, but also points to the fact that the FFA does not agree with SBS's 'attitude' - the Anti-British agenda, the desire for Australian football to focus on technical ability etc.

Fox Sports have quickly developed a large, and unfriendly rivlary with SBS - many, sick of the SBS agendas, have turned to Fox Sports - it's not hard to see why, but at times Fox Sports have gone too far. Graham Arnold comes onto Total Football, his old mate Robbie Slater asks him some very easy questions and the tough questions, that the likes of Craig Foster would ask, are ignored.

2006, Guus Hiddink takes the Socceroos to Germany, they work wonders and the country falls in love with them. Quickly they are the national team that Australians truly associate with, they are the role models that parents love to see on the back of a wheet-bix box, rather than the AFL, Cricket and Rugby players who (or at least some of them) are constantly involved in ugly nightclub incidents etc.

Graham Arnold has spent time under Hiddink, it seems logical that he should be able to carry on the Hiddink philosophy. In a way Arnold has 'copied' a lot of Hiddink's styles. He's played a similar system, he's trained the players hard, unfortunately he's not Hiddink. You can't just take some of what Hiddink did and emulate it, you have to think for yourself.

At the Asian Cup, Arnold's relationship with some players has hurt him. When problems have come up, it's been impossible for him to take a position of complete authority and get the players into line. But what are these problems?

I think these problems stem from the fact that the Australian players aren't prepared to put in the massive effort and make the sacrifices they made last year. This has been shown by Josip Skoko, Craig Moore and Scott Chipperfield who decided not to take part. Chippers has a valid reason, he is having a child. But what was Moore and Skoko's reasoning? Purely to put their club first? I doubt it.

So why, then, did Moore and Skoko decide to miss the Asian Cup? It is now clear to me that they knew the team was not 100% united. They, probably graciously, decided to sit out the tournament as it would be best for the team. And of course their club commitments would have played a part in their reasoning.

The first sign we all should have noticed that something was right, was the Mark Viduka situation. Viduka was ready to retire from the national team yet was convinced to change his decision in only a few hours. The question must be asked: why did he want out? Commitment to his club, again makes it sound like there is a lot more to the story than the media found out. Would it be too much to suggest that Mark Viduka, a good friend of Craig Moore, a good friend of Josip Skoko, knew of the factions forming in the Socceroo team and decided it would be better for him not to play.

For Graham Arnold, this was too much, he knew that without Viduka, the Asian Cup would probably be out of reach. He was no doubt desperate to get Viduka back, he offered Viduka the captaincy and probably would have done anything he could to get Viduka to play - you can't blame him for that.

When asked about his reversal, Viduka told a story about how he was holidaying in Croatia and saw someone wearing an Australian shirt, and saw his son singing the Australian national anthem. Viduka said that these things rekindled his passion for the Socceroos. Reading between the lines, I expect that in reality, these things in fact made Viduka remembered that playing for the Socceroos was representing his country. He realised that it would be disrespectful to his country to withdraw because of ill-feeling amongst the team, he remembered that it should be about the football, not team relationships.

And so Viduka's decision was reversed, he was given the captaincy and commited to the team for the Asian Cup.

This would not have sat well with Lucas Neill. Lucas Neill is someone that has known Graham Arnold for a long time. They are good friends, and their relationship would have grown even stronger last year at the World Cup. When Neill learnt that Viduka had been named captain, he wouldn't have been happy. He may have even been promised the captaincy by Graham Arnold, and to not recieve the captaincy, something he desperately wants, would have hurt.

Make no mistake, Neill is probably the most passionate player in the entire Socceroos team - to loose the captaincy to someone like Mark Viduka, who days before had wanted to retire, would have made Neill angry. Neill has had an awful tournament, and it seems obvious that the reason for this is his anger at not getting the captaincy. It would also explain Arnold's assessment of Neill after the game against Iraq. Arnold may feel that Neill is the reason this tournament has gone so very wrong.

And of course this is not the sole cause of a rift amongst the Socceroos. For a long time there have been two 'factions' of the Australian team. There is the group of players who grew up in Sydney, have little 'ethnic blood' in them - People like Lucas Neill, Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell (although I'm sure Harry is one who is mature enough not to take sides - hence his nice interview on Friday). There are also those like Mark Viduka, Josip Skoko, Sterjovski, Schwarzer, Bresciano etc.

Now you can't expect every player in a team to like every other player just as much as any other player - you can't expect a team to have no groups or factions. Unfortunately the Captaincy issue, and no proper authority from Arnold, has meant that the differences between these factions have become so serious that they hurt the national team.

The two factions amongts the squad are indicative of the factions amongst the whole of Australian football. You have your Fox Sports faction, and your SBS faction (the nicknames I give them). You have people like Rale Rasic, Les Murray, Craig Foster, then you have Simon Hill, Andy Harper, Graham Arnold, and prehaps even the FFA.

That's right, the FFA themselves have taken a side, they haven't given SBS any tv rights since 2004, when anyone will tell you that some level of FTA coverage would be good for the game. The FFA loves the attitude of Fox Sports, and others who take similar viewpoints like the FourFourTwo magazine.

The FFA have even given Channel Ten rights to a football game later this year, when Sydney play against Los Angeles and David Beckham. According to the Sunday Mail today, Les Murray was furious at this, he knows that the FFA don't like them - and now he hates that people like him are being driven out of Australian football, when people like him have every right to be involved in football.

Now I don't want to take sides, but I am currently watching "The World Game", and Craig Foster has got it exactly right. He is someone who knows the players, and he has talked about a rift that has been going on for a long time, when talking about Lucas Neill he said it correctly that Neill has not suddenly developed new feelings - this is an ongoing issue and it stems right through into the entire Australian Football Community.

Over the past couple few days, the media has brought a lot of this into the open and it has hurt.

The FFA have today had a press conference, and both Arnold and Harry Kewell denied any rift amongst the Australian team. Is it any suprise that Kewell was at this press conference - someone who is good at not taking sides - rather than Viduka who is obviously involved in the rift? If there was no rift, why wouldn't Viduka be the one at the press conference denying it?

All the most important people at the FFA were at this press conference, they obviously know how big of an issue this is.

Even as I write, the SBS reporters have just made claims about Neill and Arnold blowing up at the media. Apprently Arnold told a reporter that he "knew where these rumors were coming from and would deal with it", while Neill apparently got angry at the media during a training session. Of course the SBS journalists are reporting this as they are the ones who were involved, and it is no suprise that Arnold and Neill are angry with SBS...

Arnold's reported comments interest me, chances are you will see players on "the other side" of the rift in the Socceroos missing from tommorows game.

Enough of the problems, what needs to be done?

Well I can say that, although Arnold is only a small part of the problem, he needs to go. An international coach is desperately needed, not just because of the superior knowledge that he would bring, but because there would no longer be a conflict of interest and the new coach would be able to bring the players into line, by treating them all equally, and making sure they assert their authority.

However this will not solve all the problems, the FFA are the ones who must get rid of their bias and become balanced. It seems to me that the way the FFA have approached this in the past year or two has been to try and destroy the "SBS side" of Australian football. This is not the right approach, the FFA must be fair and balanced to try and remove the rift, rather than destroy one side of it.

Short term, those that have to put this rift behind them are the Australian players, they are all much better players than Thailand, who they play tommorow, and if they can put their differences aside, they can win and progress to the quarter finals of the Asian Cup. If there is one person who deserves this more than any other it is Mark Viduka. This will be Viduka's last tournament for his national team, and it would be a terrible tragedy if he were to go out on such a sour note. The Socceroos are good enough to even go as far as winning the tournament, and only that will get rid of the hurt that this tournament, and what has gone on at this tournament, has created.

I'm sure the Socceroos will be fired up after what has happened this weekend, let's hope they can win tommorow and remind us again of that team that truly represented the nation at last year's world cup.

Bye for now,

Friday, July 6, 2007

Living Up to Expectation

It's official, David Beckham's LA Galaxy will travel to Sydney to play SFC on November the 27th.

Along with the announcement came a lot of hype, the Football Federation of Australia was quick to point out that profits from the game will go to the entire league, in fact it appears (reading between the lines) that this is a game organised by the FFA and LA Galaxy, not Sydney FC and LA Galaxy as you would usually expect in a friendly between two club teams.

In my view the FFA is starting to overstep it's authority. There comes a point where the governing body needs to step back and let the clubs control themselves. You don't want to end up like the AFL where the clubs can't so much as breathe without AFL approval. The English Premier League is a much better example, of where the system works well. The FA (who run the EPL) know their place. They let the clubs control themselves, sure they step in when required and they never let anything get out of hand, but the clubs are allowed to make their own decisions, and run themselves. They simply provide a competition, in which they can compete.

Prehaps I am being harsh, after all the FFA's involvement in this decision has resulted in what will be a fantastic occasion for Australian football. Unfortunately I think the hype around the game may lead to dissapointment, and prehaps criticism, if the game doesn't live up to expectations.

One article described the match as 'a guaranteed sell-out', considering that the Socceroos recent game at Telstra Stadium was 15,000 people away from selling out, on a Saturday night, selling out the stadium for a Sydney FC game on a Tuesday night is, for me, unlikely. No doubt there will be a good crowd at the game, and anything over 50,000 would, and should be viewed as, impressive. However considering the hype surrounding the game, many may end up looking at this sort of crowd and saying it is a massive dissapointment.

Something that excites me is that Network Ten will be showing the game live nationwide in High Definition. Live, Nationwide free-to-air coverage is something that both AFL and NRL have struggled with, and for football this is a major statement. It was reported that Ten have paid a fair bit of money to show the game, obviously they expect it to rate. The question must be asked, what if it doesn't rate highly? I'd say there is a good chance the ratings won't be that high, probably because people aren't going to watch an entire match just because of one player (Mr. Beckham). The worry is that Ten will see these ratings, and think that it reflects badly on football, when in reality there would probably be a lot more games that would get higher ratings, if given a chance on FTA. I guess there is also the hope that the game pulls really big ratings, if it does, then you can probably look forward to a big more footy on FTA in the future.

One more issue to consider is how the game will actually play out. Can Sydney beat the Galaxy? Will it at least be a close contest? I guess this is tough to predict, after all being only a friendly it is tough to predict how seriously the game will be taken, let alone the form that the teams will be in at the time. Many have been critical of the choice to play this game in Sydney, against Sydney FC, rather than in Melbourne against the A-league champions. To me this doesn't really matter, it seems obvious that Sydney were the ones pushing for this game, and good on them for getting what they set out to do. I certainly hope this starts a trend though, I'd love to see a few more international teams in Australia to take on A-league sides in the future - apparently EPL teams are interested, now that would be something to get excited about.

For football's sake, let's hope Sydney v LA can live up to expectations, but I think you'll agree, that we shouldn't be focusing too much on one game, when what is really important is the success of the A-league and all of it's clubs.

Bye for Now,

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mark Viduka, Hallelujah, Allistair Griffin


Just a quick one this week, I have exams to study for...

Reports surfaced yesterday that Mark Viduka had virtually retired from International football, before being quickly talked out of it by Socceroos coach Graham Arnold.

The FFA even scheduled a press conference (which was due to take place this morning), only to cancel it at the last minute.

All I can say is, Hallelujah!

Mark obvioulsy wanted to retire in order to focus on club commitments (pre-season training at his new club, Newcastle United) - and of course to spend time with his family. You can certainly see why he was so close to giving away international football - it's probably been 3 years since he had a break from football, and to spend another Summer playing for the Socceroos probably seemed to much for Mark.

However, thank goodness Graham Arnold talked him out of it - such a legend of Australian football deserves to go out on top, and to go out only a few weeks before a major tournament would have been a shame, now Mark can have one last crack at winnning a major trophy at international level - indeed a major trophy at any level. Chances are his last game will be against Argentina, at the MCG on September 11. What a night that promises to be, particularly if Australia are also coming off victory at the Asian Cup.

If the Socceroos needed some extra motivation, ahead of the tournament, then to send Mark Viduka off in style should be more than enough. Hopefully Mark will also be captaining the side again, let's hope we see him lift that trophy - for a player who has achieved so much, yet has never won an important trophy in his career - that is something he richly deserves.

Hallelujah, Mark Viduka

Bye for now,

Edit: More revelations have come out today suggesting that really this whole silly incident was prehaps Graham Arnold's fault - and that Graham Arnold should not be seen as the 'hero' of this situation, but someone who was just able to clean up his own mess... What really matters is that the Duke will be there in July - also reports are suggesting he is very likely to be captain (great news) and that he may yet play on untill 2010 - let's hope so....

Thursday, June 7, 2007

United looks to Increase

Adelaide United is apparently seeking an upgrade to Hindmarsh Stadium, possibly expanding it's capacity to over 25,000 seats - pretty exciting news for me, an Adelaide resident and United fan.

(link to story:,22606,21863101-5006373,00.html)

What worries me is some other comments, made in the reports, about this situation:

"Members of the Football Federation Australia will also speak to government officials to reveal that Adelaide is highly unlikely to ever see the Socceroos again at Hindmarsh's 16,500 capacity unless the facility is upgraded...

...It is believed that FFA officials want a minimum 25,000 capacity for Hindmarsh, a carparking upgrade and a permanent video screen or the club could risk losing "showcase" matches to other venues. "

This suggests to me that the FFA considers Hindmarsh stadium to be Adelaide's only stadium capable of hosting big football matches. Although the FFA did schedule a Socceroos game to be played at Adelaide Oval in 2006, the game was cancelled and hence there has been no Socceroos game in Adelaide since we played the Solomon Islands - back in 2004.

I look at this situation and I worry about South Australia's future prospects of hosting such games - anyone who's been to hindmarsh stadium will know that it is already jammed up against roads, and the potential for expansion is not great (I have my doubts that even an expansion to 25,000 could happen). If Hindmarsh Stadium is Adelaide's only major stadium suitable for football, we can kiss goodbye any chance of hosting even remotely big Socceroos games, the A-league grand final - or even World Cup games (one day, maybe).

I firmly believe the time has come for South Australia to build a new stadium, a large stadium - in the center of the city. AAMI Stadium is hardly good enough to host AFL anymore, let alone football (for those who don't know it is a very big ground, and fans don't get a good view of the action). Adelaide Oval is a nice ground, but it is a traditional ground, it's not really suitable for football, or AFL for that matter - It's a great place to watch Cricket, but that's about it.

A new stadium would have to be suitable for multiple sports - The Telstra Dome is a good blueprint to follow, as it's quite a good venue for football and it's obviously a good place to watch AFL games.

Another major advantage of the Telstra Dome is it's location - in the center of Melbourne, right next to a train station - the atmosphere when walking through Melbourne to the Dome is great -and really adds to the experience of attending a game there. Compare that to AAMI - no good public transport, and it's right out west so everyone who goes there is travelling in the same directon - making for terrible traffic jams.

If a new telstra-dome like stadium were built in Adelaide, it would become very much a stadium for the whole state. Both of Adelaide's AFL clubs would play all there games there, and I'm sure crowd numbers at their games would increase. Adelaide United would probably continue to play games at Hindmarsh, but the new stadium would be perfect for big United games, such as finals - as well as any potential Socceroo games.

One day, the stadium would probably play host to the biggest matches of all - FIFA World Cup games. Australia has decared it's intention to bid for the 2018 World Cup, and at present Adelaide has no venue suitable for hosting games. I believe that there is no chance any stadiums in Adelaide could be upgraded to be suitable for World Cup matches. AAMI's stands are not steep enough, and the ground surface is too large - only a complete rebuilding of AAMI would make it suitable. Hindmarsh could never be upgraded to have the necessary capacity (40,000) for World Cup games, while the traditionalists would not want extensive upgrades made to Adelaide Oval, as it would rid it of it's beauty (and I agree with them).

Having said all that, an upgrade to Hindmarsh Stadium would be a very good thing - it's not going to be long before 16,000 will not be enough seats to meet demand for United matches. Let's just make sure we look to the future, and in my opinion, if we want to host big games, that future needs to be a new stadium.

On another topic, well done to the Olyroos, who last night beat Jordan 4-0 to book a spot in the final qualifying round for the Beijing Olympics - unfortunately we only managed to finish second in our group, so chances are we will have some very tough games coming up in the final phase of qualification - with winning the group the only way to go to Beijing, the hard work starts now.

Check out the Highlights from last night's game (the last clip, of a Dario Vidosic goal is particularly impressive):

Kind of get's me annoyed that we had no coverage of this game here, while they obviously have good coverage in the middle east - this has been the case for all the Olyroos games, you would have thought someone like SBS or Fox Sports could have shown them here - let's hope these sort of games get tv coverage here in the future - having attended one and seen one streamed on the net, they are certainly worth watching - and last night's performance is another encouraging sign for the future of our national team.

Bye for Now,

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Chance to Impress

Uruguay has sent a full-strength team to play against Australia at Telstra Stadium this Saturday night, in the past we've had problems with attracting international teams to this country, especially ones that will field strong teams. We get a good opportunity, with Uruguay looking to give it's side a strong test before the Copa América and this time it is our side who doesn't feel motivated to put our best team on the park.

Players who will be missing for the Socceroos on Saturday include Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Tim Cahill, Mark Bresciano, Vince Grella, Mark Schwarzer, John Aloisi, Scott Chipperfield - read's like a who's who of Australian football. Tim Cahill and John Aloisi are legitamately injured - this was also the reason behind Harry Kewell not playing, although you would think at this stage of his recovery this would be a great opportunity for him to get some more match time under his belt.

Meanwhile most of the other big-guns not taking part are being rested. Granted, many of our players have had long seasons, and with the World Cup last year they have had little rest since 2005 (even then many were involved in the Confederations Cup) - however it wouldn't hurt to spend some time with the squad, and play even a small amount of football against Uruguay.

Although this lack of big-name players has prehaps meant this game is finding it difficult to attract as much media attention as it would have otherwise - I still think it will be a very interesting game to watch, and I think the team that will be out on the park will still be able to compete very strongly. Many players will be looking to put themselves into contention for a place in Australia's Asian Cup squad - but personally I am hoping to see a performance that will leave me optimistic about the future of our national team.

There are players in this squad, that haven't had much of an impact at this level in the past, but need to step up - in order for us to win this game, in order for us to perform well in the Asian cup and in order for us to qualify and do well in South Africa 2010.

A few I will be watching closely: Michael Beauchamp, Patrick Kisnorbo, Brett Holman, Matthew Spiranovic, Carl Valeri as well as Brad Jones between the sticks. I would not be suprised if all of these players are in the squad that eventually goes to South Africa 2010 - and Saturday will be their first chance to play a big international, against a strong side, at home in front of a big crowd.

I was recently very encouraged by the Olyroos, and the way they smashed Iran in Adelaide - a good performance on Saturday night and I'll be pretty confident about the future. Good luck guys!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Good games, Unfortunate results.

Urawa 0 - 0 Sydney FC
AC Milan 2 - 1 Liverpool

Sydney can't do enough to score against Urawa, they certainly put in a good performance though and could have won it with a bit of luck. Urawa didn't play that well - I was hoping for a nice attacking game, but they ruined any chance of that. Great atmosphere though and they probably do deserve to go through.

Devastated that Liverpool lost this morning, they were playing some fantastic football - especially in the first half, and had chances to score. Milan got a lucky free kick and as soon as they went ahead it was always going to be tough for the Reds. Milan's theatrics in the second half were shameful - the ref didn't do anything to stop it either, which just made things worse. Some poor defending by liverpool and it's 2-0 with 10 minutes to go. When Kuyt scored it made things interesting, but unfortunately this was one final Liverpool couldn't grab an amazing win - mind you I was annoyed that the ref stopped the game 50 seconds early (including the 30 seconds he should have added on for the substitution) - that's just plain cheating - and with Liverpool, you never know what might have happened in those last seconds.

Yes, I'm bitter about it, even as an Everton fan - on a brighter note, Harry Kewell looked sharp when he came on, didn't have any space to work with though and couldn't make a real impact on the game, but I still think he's looking better than he has for years.

In fairness, I think Liverpool deserved to win this game, but let's be honest - it was the other way around in 2005.

PS. Well done to Adelaide United on their 3-0 win last night in their last Champions league game for the season, and well done to Carl Veart who's had a great career. Travis Dodd scored a nice hat-trick, I might just take some credit for that as I wished him luck last week when I saw him at the Olyroos game (see profile photo). Unlike Sydney we have next year's competition to look forward to - hopefully we can make the most of it next time around.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Two Years On...

May 25, 2005. I awake around 5am, turn on my tv and see that Liverpool are 3-0 down to AC Milan in the Champions league final. I'm a little disappointed, after suprising everyone by getting this far it looks like it's an anti-climax for Liverpool fans in the final. I was considering going back to bed when Steven Gerrard pops up with a goal - the look on his face said it all - game on. An hour later and Liverpool are champions of Europe, in one of the greatest football matches I have ever seen.

Two years on and the same two teams are again facing off, this time Liverpool is no longer a suprise packet, and look a much better side than two years ago. Having said that Milan deserve to be favourites after their impressive semi-final win over Man United. I think anyone will agree, if the game delivers anything like the excitement of two years ago it will be great to watch.

As I compare this game to the match in 2005, I compare my feelings and passion for football and there is one big difference. Two years ago, the A-league was only being talked about, as was Australia's potential entry into Asia. Now, the A-league is a massive success, and Sydney FC are looking forward to their own big, continental match. Finally Australian football has something to compare to what the big clubs of Europe are going through.

Tonight, Sydney FC travels to the Saitama Stadium in Japan, 60 thosand fanatical Urawa Reds fans will be on hand for effectively a knockout tie. The atmosphere in Japan will rival that of big European matches. It strikes me as amazing, that only two years ago, this was a pipe dream. It begs the question - where will we be in 2009?

Unfortunately I don't think Sydney will be good enough to win, their lack of match fitness is going to hurt them, and they need to be at their very best to beat Urawa. Let's hope they put in a good performance though, as that would at least promote the A-league as a high quality competition.

As for the European Champions league... I think this one could go either way, if Liverpool is to win, Steven Gerrard will need to fire - without him, Milan are too classy. I also expect Harry Kewell to play a part, hopefully off the bench, as he could make a big impact in my opinion. Over the past few years he's made several comebacks, and he's always taken a lot of time to get back into decent form. This time is different, already he looks fast and in form.

Good luck Sydney, Good luck Liverpool, Good luck Harry. It's going to be an interesting 12 hours...

PS. For now, here's a reminder of 2005

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Hey, welcome to my football blog.

Whether or not there is anyone reading this doesn't really bother me as I am doing this to record my own feelings and thoughts on the matter of football....

Having said that, if you are reading this then thankyou and I hope you enjoy reading what I have to say and invite you to comment whenever you agree/disagree or have an opinion on what I've written.

Firstly, let me introduce myself:

My name is Matthew Winter, I'm from the Adelaide Hills in South Australia. I'm 18 (at time of writing) and I'm a uni student doing computer systems engineering at the University of Adelaide.

And yes, I'm a football fan.

My passion is really the national team, the Socceroos - however I'm also a big fan of Adelaide United and I watch a lot of football from England and Europe. My favourite club in England is Everton, I had been a Chelsea fan for around 8 years, however I don't agree with how Chelsea are approaching football and have hence adopted a new club.

Part of the reason I chose Everton is that they remind me of the Port Adelaide FC - my favourite Australian rules football side, both sides have a very proud history and both are smaller clubs in a city where there are only two large clubs. Also one of my favourite players in Tim Cahill plays there...

Anyway, I look forward to writing about many football topics, of course the Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan is this week, and that will probably be the topic of my first 'real' post. As we build towards the Asian Cup I will be focusing on the Socceroos, as I really think this is a good chance for us to win a significant piece of silverware.

I plan to also write a lot about rumors involving football, and speculation about the future - as the future is what everyone is talking about in Australian football these days. In the mean time you might like to check out some of my football-related photos...

Bye for now,

PS. Just briefly on last night's FA Cup final, well done to Chelsea for winning, but it really was an awful game - something about FA Cup finals tends to make the quality of the matches poor - unless there's an early goal in which case it can be a classic. However Chelsea deserved this piece of silverware, and Man United can have no complaints, although they will no doubt complain about Giggs' goal being disallowed - It was clear to me that Cech was pushed over the line.