Friday, September 29, 2006

Newcastle vs Perth

Well for personal reasons I had to leave The Muddy Farmer at half time, so will have to follow the rest of the game on the net, but I must say to begin with that I was enjoying the football much more than last night.

Perth deserved that goal. From the first few minutes I was more impressed with what they were trying to do, as much as how they were playing. From now on that's what I'm going to be looking for I think. It's something philosophical.

Not that Newcastle were playing that badly - they weren't, and they had a couple of good opportunities, but when they just lob the ball straight from the defenders to the forwards (well, to Rodriquez), hoping that wonderman will cast the spell, it's boring.

A possible irony occurred to me about these magic imports. I have no doubt they can be great for the Australian game, but is there a risk that teams will base their strategy around the magic players (especially if they're strikers), thus compromising the development of a whole beauty of play? At this stage this is just a thought, but I'm going to be watching for this. Certainly what I love about Roar (acknowledging my bias to be sure) is they have a lot of emphasis on the midfield. Matt McKay is certainly a pleasure to watch, but one of the big hero imports is Seo, who is also beautifully skilled and central to the Roar game. Anyway, I'm thinking aloud. Not an expert, but a bellowing voice in the crowd (as anyone who read my rant last night can attest).

It's minute 60 and I do wish I was watching. It did look like it could get exciting. Perth, from my impressions, can not be written out of this competition. Newcastle too are playing a better quality football than New Zealand or CCM in my view, despite their position on the ladder. Sydney has been bloody lucky.

How many Australians would be watching this game if you didn't have to have Fox Sport or go to the pub to watch it? It's not even on the bloody radio, and checking the net every five minutes is a useless experience. I'm worried about Sunday - it promises to be the best game of the season to date, and I will most certainly be watching it, but I just know there'll be a raucous pack of rugby fans already drinking, especially toward the end of the match. Oh well... the perils of a football fan in Oz.

3:0 must be the final score. From the half I saw it was deserved. For predictions, a point for Jacob. Newcastle - players and fans - must be devastated.

Good night.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

New Zealand vs Central Coast


No, no, no, no, no, no, no!

That's not it. It's not the beautiful game. It's not the game I fell in love with; that saved my spirit and gave me hope for the future of humanity. If that was it, I'd go back to rugby league and politics. That is rubbish.

My son and I walked out of the pub at 71 minutes because we couldn't bare it any more (I was thinking it when he suggested it). If I was at the stadium I would have walked out too.

On the net (it's now 87 minutes), I just notice Central Coast actually scored. I must say that in the 5 or 6 minutes before we left, they were the ones maintaining posession for long enough to look like they might, but it hasn't changed my thoughts on that game. How did the red cards happen? Don't care.

Look, I just can't blame the players. They must be pretty good. They're worth good money. Some of them have played internationally. Straight up, I blame the coaches and the football philosophy which seems to be happening here. Long lottery kicks... no emphasis on skill and micro-tactics. We were audibly marking the changes in possession, which seemed to happen after every touch. What is the mid-field for again? These guys should just watch a few games from Europe and South America and get a fresh idea of what they're supposed to do.

This has nothing to do with giving a crap about the Knights or Mariners (I don't). The future of the A-League is at stake if this is the football it is producing. This will, directly, make the crowds shrink. This will, if it continues, make our precious game less relevant than ever, sponsorships will be lost, salary pools will shrink etcetera. Honestly, something has to be done about these teams, and let me add Sydney if they can't pick up their act this weekend. Come on and be honest - whose dicks are these coaches sucking that they can still be employed?

I dearly hope the other games in this round are better.

At least my tip was right. Paltry compensation.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Round 6 Predictions

Firstly, my predictions last week were shocking, so I can hardly recommend them. It's sort of fun to try I guess.

For predictive powers I'm giving three points for a correct score (neither Jacob - my second - or I got any of these) and one point for a correct result (winner or draw). On this system I got a miserly 1 point last week, and Jacob got 3. We'll see how we go this time...

My Call:

New Zealand vs Central Coast
Central Coast 1:0

Newcastle vs Perth
Draw 2:2

Melbourne vs Queensland
Queensland 2:1

Adelaide vs Sydney
Adelaide 3:0

Jacob's (who never agrees with his father) call:

New Zealand vs Central Coast
New Zealand 1:0

Newcastle vs Perth
Perth 1:0

Melbourne vs Queensland
Queensland 3:2

Adelaide vs Sydney
Adelaide 2:0

Now frankly the Queenland vs Melbourne match is the important one to us. I'm as worried as hell about Miron's decision to put Tom Willis in goal instead of Liam Reddy, only because the latter has been performing so well and Willis hasn't played a game for a while, but still think Queensland can do the job on Melbourne. Why? Because I do alright? Melbourne, undefeated and in their flash new home stadium, have got their hubris coming to them. Jacob is making it clear that he actually thinks Melbourne will probably win, but is making a call on loyalty lines.

How's that for professional, considered analysis? Remember you read it here first!

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Football hope in The Age

Here's some great stuff from The Age today. Two stories which well illustrate the way football can change our society for the better. Just scouting around The Age's website, it seems the Fairfax press is giving soccer a decent go. Better than Murdoch's Courier Mail that's for sure. I'll find some time to have a better look at their blog, Balls Up, later on. I've added it to my links.

Re: The second story, I'll try to catch Offside as soon as I can, and will review it for Football Down Under. As time goes on, when I get hard-up for things to write about, I will get around to belated reviews of Goal! and Bend it Like Beckham as well. I know I keep revealing my ignorance all over the place, but if anyone can tell me of other good football movies, I'd appreciate it.


Soccer lends a helping hand to the homeless
Clare Nullis, Cape Town
September 26, 2006

NEARLY 500 drug addicts, alcoholics, orphans and vagrants have kicked off the Homeless World Cup soccer tournament in Cape Town, celebrating an annual event designed to help society's most marginalised make a new start in life.

South African President Thabo Mbeki and thousands of spectators saluted the flag-waving teams from 48 nations as diverse as Afghanistan, Australia, Scotland, Sweden, the US, Liberia and Zimbabwe as they paraded through Cape Town.

"We really can help change the world, end poverty and homelessness," said organiser Mel Young. "All we have to do is take a little round ball and start kicking it around."

The idea for the street soccer tournament was born in Cape Town in 2001 after an international meeting of editors of street newspapers such as The Big Issue, which is sold by the homeless in Britain, Australia, Namibia and South Africa.

Melbourne will host the event in 2008 at Federation Square, with State Government funding of $500,000.

The rationale behind the event is to instil a sense of pride — and discipline — in the players through being part of a team and help them overcome problems in their lives.

Research published by the organisers said one year after the last Homeless World Cup, in the Scottish capital Edinburgh, 94 per cent of players had new motivation for life, 62 per cent were coping better with alcohol and drug dependency, 40 per cent had improved their housing situation, 38 per cent had regular employment and 28 per cent had opted for more education.

Tracey Ford, a 34-year-old Australian, was homeless for four years after losing her house as a result of drug addiction. She then started as a street paper vendor, trained with Street Socceroos in Melbourne and took part in the 2005 contest.

"I was literally in the gutter and felt depressed, suicidal and at the end of my life," she said. "The Homeless World Cup made me ecstatic, proud. I wanted to tell everyone, tell the whole world. My old life doesn't exist any more because of this."

Ms Ford recently moved into a small home, has reconciled with her children and started part-time work in a laundrette and nearly finished her drug rehabilitation program.

The tournament was endorsed by big names such as former Beatle Ringo Star, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and Portuguese soccer great Luis Figo. It was kicked off by Eusebio, a Mozambican-born Portuguese soccer legend.

But despite the big names, it was the little people who were set to take centre stage at the tournament.

People such as Sada Uzumakunda, who lost her home and her family in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and ended up as an alcoholic street girl. Or Tula Pilar Ferreira, a Brazilian mother of three who outplayed many men to qualify for the Brazilian squad. And Daniel Martinez, whose world fell apart when his father died and who found his new "home" by qualifying for the US squad.

"The atmosphere is brilliant. Everything is brilliant," declared Nicky Meta. "It's like a dream come true."

"It's a great experience. There's nothing like it," beamed Adam Banda, who is recovering from substance abuse.

Each team is sponsored by organisations and companies in their country and some teams have links with soccer teams.


A mirror under the veil - and inside the stadium
By Jake Wilson
September 26, 2006

"I didn't realise I was making a comedy," says the director Jafar Panahi of his new film, set around a football match between Iran and Bahrain during the lead-up to the 2006 World Cup.

Still, as Panahi went about developing the script of Offside, it became hard to ignore the absurdity of the predicament faced by his central characters, a group of Iranian women who have traded their veils for caps and boys' shirts in the hope of being admitted to the all-male event.

Eventually these unlikely rebels, each drawn to the game for her own reasons, find themselves stuck in a holding pen outside the stadium, where a guard explains that women are not permitted to enter in case they are harmed by the foul language of the crowd. "We promise not to listen," one of them responds.

Later, another of the women begs to be escorted inside so she can go to the toilet, but permission is granted only after she agrees to mask herself by attaching a poster of star player Ali Karimi to her face.

Though barely glimpsed on screen, the football match provides a model for the film's narrative: a clear time limit, a struggle between opposing teams, and unpredictable action that spills in all directions around a single central location.

The tension between documentary immediacy and a set of strictly defined formal parameters is a hallmark of Panahi's cinema. So, too, is an overtly expressed anger at the restrictions that Iranian society imposes particularly, but not exclusively, on women.

I spoke to Panahi, a grave yet lively man in his mid-40s, during his brief visit to Australia for this year's Melbourne Film Festival. Answering questions through an interpreter, he stressed the social purpose behind his films - his desire "to go to the streets and portray the events of the day" using "real issues, real people, real locations".

With this in mind, I asked Panahi about his early film The Mirror (1998), an apparently realistic story about a young girl walking through Tehran that takes a surprising turn halfway through, when the lead actress announces that she's tired of her role and sets off home for real.

On a first viewing, The Mirror appeared to be a parable about the deceptive nature of cinema, demonstrating that even the most innocent-looking film story is a carefully constructed illusion.

But surprisingly, Panahi turned this interpretation on its head. Rather than underlining the distinction between art and reality, he intended to suggest that "reality and the imagination are intertwined, they are very similar" and that Iranian cinema itself is like a mirror. "When I see my picture, the picture resembles me."

Panahi's frankness about oppression has made it impossible for him to screen his films in Iran, but even so he is the first to admit that the reflection of society in his work is less than complete. If the battles he shows are fought exclusively out of doors, in the public space of the city, this isn't entirely by choice.

"I have vowed not to tell lies to myself at least," he said. "In Iran you cannot show a woman without the veil, and if you show inside a house where women are living, or even in bed, you have to show in the film as if they have veils, and this is a lie."

Though the ending of Offside depends on the unscripted outcome of the Iran-Bahrain match itself, Panahi said that this project had been germinating in his mind for many years - since 1998, when the Iranian football team returned home in triumph after a match against Australia.

Fans were told to assemble at the football stadium to greet their heroes, and when Panahi and his family went to the stadium to experience the mood of the nation, they were told that 5000 women had forced themselves inside.

"This was reported by the print media, and of course the question was posed why women are not allowed to watch the game," he said. "After the World Cup, the issue died down and no report of that appeared again."

A few years later, however, Panahi's mind returned to the subject after an incident that may have inspired the film's optimistic ending. In 2002, Iran was once again preparing for the World Cup.

"Right away I wanted to go and watch the practice game, and my 11-year-old daughter said that she would like to come with me," said Panahi. "At the stadium entrance, I insisted on bringing my daughter with me, but they didn't allow me.

"And I was there, and 10 minutes later she was there. I said 'How did you come in?' And she said 'Ultimately, a way can be found.' "

Offside opens on Thursday.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Book Review: Johnny Warren's Biography

Johnny Warren, Sheila's, Wogs and Poofters: an incomplete biography of Johnny Warren and soccer in Australia (Updated Edition), Random House Australia, 2003.

Firstly, before any attempt at description or interpretation, this book is a great read. If there are any Australian football tragics (or sport tragics) who haven't yet read it, do yourself a favour. Warren is essentially having an extended yarn, and he is entertaining and fun at the same time as very informative and (please don't be put off by this) philosophical.

Warren is very diplomatic to begin with in regard to other Australian sports, indicating that not only was he involved in many sports as a child, notably cricket and Rugby Union, but that his eventual focus on soccer was almost coincidental. By the end of the book however, it is clear that Warren has a distinct judgement that soccer is the greatest football code. This reviewer is in no doubt that Warren is correct about this.

But it is, I admit, Warren's philosophy which most attracts me to the work, and most wants me to commend it to others. In this regard I guess it is the beginning ("Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters: An Introduction") and the end ("Where to Now?") which most endeared me to Warren. No doubt due largely to my ignorance of football history there were sections of the more chronical-type sections of the book, replete with names, teams and games which I will never remember, which I found a little tiresome. Nevertheless, I do not regret my first brush with this history, and the broad familiarity it has given me.

It's worth quoting the opening paragraph in full. Although I'm bloody hopeless at soccer myself (still love playing it), and my background is in history, philosophy and politics, this well expresses the reason I believe in soccer:
Throughout my life, football has come to mean so much to me. It has made me more aware, it has awakened the world citizen inside me and it has alerted me to what the sport is capable of achieving for my own wonderful country, Australia. Football has been the vehicle as well as the window for that awakening. I want the same experience of awakening and awareness for Australia. No other sport reflects life more than football. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why it is so popular around the world. People relate intimately to the ninety minutes of drama that unfolds before them in a football match, because it is so often a metaphor for their own existence. Of course, the game is aesthetically beautiful too, but this is a more subjective thing. In half the games we see, the best team doesn't win, just as the best person doesn't always get the top job or the most deserving person isn't always rewarded. Soccer reflects all those injustices and it is the way people relate to football that brings the emotion into the game. It is the sport of the people of the world. It is physically, socially and financially democratic.

Irony, as in life and football, permeates the book. There are two interconnected yet apparently contradictory through-themes. The first is Australia winning against the odds, especially in away games. There is a real feeling that we have done much better than we could have given the absence of soccer culture in Australia, very variable competence in administration and lack of money. On the other hand there is a second theme of a curse on Australian soccer, apparently, according to Warren, beginning in Mozambique in 1969 in a bazaar story of supernatural subterfuge, where we could perhaps have done much better internationally had it not been for a string of bad luck incidents. Did we do worse than we could have had Lady Luck been on our side, or better than we could have given the forces holding us back? Or both? I for one am happy with the irony. As Warren has suggested in the first place, it merely reflects life as we experience it.

The final chapters are a bit eerie. If Australian soccer, quite openly referred to as a religion by its chief advocates, has an apostle, it's Johnny, and here he speaks to us from the grave in a clear, prophetic sense. He also pulls no punches, especially with regard to the administration of FIFA. Allow me to juxtapose two claims:
Football is indisputably an oligarchy where the real influence behind the game lies with the clout of Europe's big clubs... I fear that the ambitions and desires of the G-14 are antithetical to the community spirit of football.
Warren names names. He names some in criticism and others in recommendation. And then...
Success in football originates more fom parental involvement; mums and dads introducing kids to football and taking them to games.
Along with...
I feel that the role of the lady who worked the canteen at the junior soccer club to raise funds for the kids to play football should never be forgotten.
It is clear where Warren feels the answers lie to Australia's eventual World Cup success. And it's not the Australian Institute of Sport, or not by itself anyway.

It also became clear to me reading these final chapters what Les Murray and Craig Foster were on about when they talked of Warren's vision having largely come to pass. He adamantly insists that Australia must enter the Asian competition and also that the Australian league needs to be revamped. But it's the more grass-roots advice that I think we can never assume has been heeded. It's one of those 'eternal vigilance' things.

Like his belief in fate, there is something very classical about Warren's belief in giving back, lest hubris destroy the soul of what we are on about. He doesn't use the terms hubris or fate - it's my own classical education coming through, but the resonance is loud. Then again, maybe this unconscious (I suspect) attachment to classical philosophical threads is related to Warren's open love affair with Brazil and all things Latin. He applauds the joy that can be found in poverty (with community) and the wisdom and strength in tragedy. Mere speculation, but for this classical soul and lover of the West, there is something there.

To be more specific, he makes a challenge to the elite players themselves - our heroes like Kewell and Schwarzer - to never forget their fan base.

And here I get back to my view of the game through the eyes of my son. After the Australia vs New Zealand game the other week, Jacob and his mates hung around until the Roar players finished their 'warm down', so they could get their heroes to sign their tickets. These kids are the fans and players of the future, and they have since judged the players directly according to whether they walked straight past into the dressing room (Matt McKay, Zhang) or whether they gave a bit of time to the fans. Seo was notably the most enthusiastically - genuinely it seemed - giving, and he is now a clear favourite of the kids. I think this is the sort of detail that Warren was talking about. The game has given everything to these players. Whilst it can't be written into a contract, these players do owe the game a tithe of their success in return. As with the ancients, it's just sacrificing a little of the proceeds of good luck to the gods.

I'm currently reading Les Murray's By the Balls, which I'll probably also review. If anyone wants to recommend to me other good books about football or football personalities, I would be most grateful.

Good night.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Perth vs Melbourne

Frustrations of a Football Fan in Oz

There was an evil choice to begin with this afternoon as I really wanted to watch this game but it clashed with the social football in Davies Park. I may as well advertise it here, as all are welcome, all ages, men and women. Every Sunday, 4.30pm in Davies Park, West End (corner of Jane St and Montague Rd). Anyway, I did pop along, but without embarassing myself with an excuse, took off quickly to go to the Clarence, one of my preferred pubs for over five years now, for the game on Fox.

It is the last time I will go to the Clarence for any reason. Fortunately I did arrive just in time to witness Reinaldo score for Manchester United against Reading. It was a beautifully placed long shot, expertly between two defenders and taking the goalie quite by surprise. The result of that match was 1:1.

But the barman point-blank refused to put a screen on the soccer, as the cricket final was on. It wasn't clear even whether it was Fox's decision or his, as he was looking at the program saying, "yeah, it was on here, but it's not on because of the cricket final." I was disappointed, to say the least. Finishing my schooner of Gold, I had enough time to carefully observe that noone was watching the cricket on any of the four screens it was playing. If anything I saw one old couple look up and observe the score once, which is about all you need to do with the cricket as far as I can see.

Anyway, I went home frustrated, wishing I had just gone to the kick-about, and discovered on the Net that in fact the football was on the other Fox channel.

Back in my car I went to The Muddy Farmer in Annerley, closer anyway. Upon walking in the football was already on, on the first screen I saw. Sure they were playing the cricket on other screens (still noone watched, and when some kids came in soon after they turned the main screen over to Jurassic Park). But this pub has a new convert. Especially because I can bring Jacob here too, I'll be coming here for the games in future. The Clarence Corner Hotel can officially go f*** itself.

Anyway, I arrived in the 27th minute and was pleasantly surprised to see a very equal looking competition. Ten minutes later Jacob called me - he was following it on the Net. We both wanted Perth to win just so Melbourne wouldn't leap too far ahead of Brisbane on the table. From his internet perspective, Perth was getting most of the possession and goal chances, but from my perspective I could see that they were beng professionally foiled all the same, so it looked pretty equal.

In the second half Melbourne came on meaning business and I do think the best team won, however many times Perth got the ball up the field. Melbourne's defence was very tight. Possibly Perth's relatively inexperienced goalkeeper let them down a bit as well. At the same time, after such a persistent concerted effort the final goal was also deserved. The result was about right from my view.

The final frustration for the evening, and a reason I am rushing this review, is that half way through the second half I was invited to dinner and single malt whiskey with Jacob's coach and the same's housemate (father of Gary, who was the top goal scorer in Jacob's team). The reason that was frustrating is because I was already half way through the Muddy Farmer's Catch of the Day: Steamed fillet filled with jullienne of vegetable on jasmine rice, topped with a mild tomato and sweet basil salsa, grilled prawns, salad and fries. $17.50. Very nice, but unfortunately also a bit filling.

The whiskey at least will be appreciated. Cheers!

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

El Salvador Soccer Club

Well we tried to see the Newcastle vs Mariners game at the Pineapple Hotel, but it was packed and we were overwhelmed by Rugby League on the screens. The food was ok though. "The food was beautiful; it was so nice," is Jacob's retort.

Jacob was also on the money with the score (well, at least the draw part) so maybe his food review is better too.

But today was a big soccer day for us both, and in a way which for me is closer to the real heart of the game than the A-League or even the World Cup. It was our local club's Fun Day and Trophy Presentation, which took us from 11.00am through to 6.00pm.

The El Salvador Club has been growing almost too rapidly in the past few years. It only has one main field and two mini fields, but the club house is great, small but licensed, with a big screen and a pool table. There were eight under 7 teams this year, so that they were obliged to set up an intra-club under 7s competition. It's a bit out of control.

So there were hundreds of people there today, all ages. Parents vs kids games all day, pinyatas and other games, a jumping castle, a dead pig over a fire, free sausages and drinks for all the players and on it went. Apart from meals and drinks it was all free. The club is doing well, and although the day was long, it was joy and community.

One of the keys it seems to the success is that the parents are catered for directly. Friday night training is not a drop-off, but a chance to sit and have a drink with the other parents, with salsa music and very reasonably priced food.

I'm bloody sore after the game between us parents of the under 11s and our kids. We showed no mercy and thrashed them 5:0. Ha! "5 nil, it was not, it was 3 nil," comes from over my shoulder. Anyway, it was fun, and by the end we were all completely stuffed.

And to top it off, I am the proud parent of one of the "most improved player" trophy getters. He deserves it too.

Anyway, the point of all this? This is football. Where a community is not alienated but laughing, talking about life and love, living together in the sun on the grass. This is much more important than Australia winning international games, but it must also be said that it is greatly facilitated by Australia winning international games. I only expect that many clubs in Australia are having successes and growth, and the Socceroos are partly to blame.

And the growth and success of these local clubs can return the favour. It is this grass roots community joy in football that will, in the long term, deliver Australia the World Cup.

Salud, and good night.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Roar vs Adelaide

I'm going to start with the evening's minutia, because it's easier. One reason I like blogging is that the minutia can be prominent, as contrary to with the MSM.

First, it's great that our tickets to the game are also train tickets, and myself, my son Jacob, his mate Max, and my mate Sean, took off for Southbank Station at about 6.30pm. The kids, like last week, went straight for the drink machines and bought hot chocolates. Unlike last week however, the hot chocolates were really weak. Can someone work on that please? Southbank station drink machines: up the chocolate!

Second minutia. When we got to the game, stocked up with beer, drinks and chips, and sat down, I once again (like last week) thought it was really cool to watch the kids' teams (under 7's or 8's I'm guessing) play. It must be a complete thrill for them to play in front of 10,000 people or so (it was over 16,000 for the actual game). Someone is thinking about the long term development of the game, and it's great.

Ok, enough minutia.

What can I say? Queensland was dominant, increasingly, and by the end overwhelmingly, but just couldn't score. Are the Roar back to last season's curse? I bloody well hope not.

Robert Bajic, the Adelaide goalkeeper, will never forget this game. He had so much pressure on him, so constantly, and increasingly until it became a minute by minute push at his goal. He made a couple of errors, but not when it counted. My hat is off to him.

The man of the Roar side was Hyuk-Su Seo, in almost constant mid-fielding action to maintain and extend Queensland possession. It's certainly not his fault that the strikers just didn't connect.

They didn't. They all had decent chances, but just kept missing. On the few occasions they were on target, Bajic came through.

The best chances for Queensland were after Yuning Zhang and young Dario Vidosic came on in the last quarter. Dario played beautifully and set up some lovely chances, including two from corners. "Zhang stuffed it," as my son Jacob eloquently puts it. But due credit has to go to a staunch, determined Adelaide defence. At that stage, with one man off the field, Adelaide was not even attempting to mount an attack.

Frankly, this does not bode well for Roar. If they can't beat Adelaide, Melbourne will be a serious uphill challenge for them. Sydney? Bah! Sydney are crap at the moment, and in my view don't pose serious opposition any more than New Zealand or North Coast Mariners. But at this stage, despite a dream beginning, Queensland can confidently only say that they are in the top four.

Whiskey and beer. Good night!

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sydney FC vs New Zealand Knights

Well to this eye - albeit untrained - that was a very scrappy game of football. The first half hour was embarassing, for both of the teams, and for the A-League itself.

In the end, though it looked a couple of times like my 1:1 draw prediction was going to come to pass, Sydney did deserve its win. Once the goal occurred, there was even a bit of form, and between the goal (about minute 57) and the last 10 minutes Sydney virtually monopolised possession, occasionally bouncing it off a New Zealand player for variety, or so it seemed.

In the final 10 minutes Sydney got very defensive and New Zealand actually managed to keep a bit of possession. In minute 84 there was a clear chance for them, but the player in question fell over at the critical moment. The moment represented the game well.

Sorry I don't know the names of these guys. This is just my impression of the game as watched over a couple of beers in a pub - The Clarence Hotel to be precise. It was not good football. I truly believe Queensland and Adelaide will put on a much better show tomorrow night, regardless of who wins.

Good night.

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Round Five Predictions

Well, rank amateur as I am, here's my call for this weekend's A-League results.

New Zealand vs Sydney
Draw 1:1

Queensland vs Adelaide
Queensland 2:1

Central Coast vs Newcastle
Newcastle 2:0

Perth vs Melbourne
Melbourne 1:0

Probably the most shocking call I'm making is for tonight's game. I watched Sydney vs Newcastle last Sunday (on Fox Sport at the Pub) and frankly I think Sydney were bloody lucky. Newcastle were playing better from the beginning. Yes, Sydney had the ball for the first fifteen minutes up in Newcastle's area but, a) this was very clearly Newcastle's opening strategy, and b) they orchestrated it perfectly, leaving Sydney no opportunities in that time at all. The first (penalty) goal against Newcastle was straight-up unlucky.

Meanwhile, with the loss of Steve Corica and Alvin Ceccoli the Sydney Club seems to be falling to pieces. Coach Butcher is not handling it well, and I'm worried that morale is pretty bad in the Sydney camp.

New Zealand didn't play too badly last Friday night against Queensland, especially in the first half before they slipped two points behind, and are absolutely desperate for a result. I reckon they can smell the blood from Sydney's wounds and will put on the best show we've seen from them yet. We'll see.

My son Jacob, 11, differs with me. These are his predictions:

New Zealand vs Sydney
Sydney 2:1

Queensland vs Adelaide
Queensland 2:0

Central Coast vs Newcastle
Draw 0:0

Perth vs Melbourne
Melbourne 2:0

We'll be at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night and I'll report on that game. I'll try to catch tonight's game at the Pub, but don't even know the names of most of the players so won't be able to say too much. I'll see how I go. Contributions from others are welcome.

Remember that tonight's game is at 6.00pm, Australian Eastern Standard Time, on Fox Sports 2. It's fair enough that the A-League page leads with the local time (North Harbour Stadium, NZ in this case) of the kick off, but seems silly to me that the away-punters have to figure out the time difference for themselves. Do they want us to watch it or not?

It sucks that the A-League is not on free-to-air TV. It's not good for the game either. I'm sure Fox Sport solidly outbid SBS, but I hope that's not the total of the Soccer Federation's calculus. If it is they are blowing it.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Desperation Beginning

I've searched for an independent football blog with an Australian perspective. The best I've found is The Soccer Squirrel, which claims to be exactly what I was looking for. Unfortunately its contributors appear to have abandoned the project since the World Cup ended, which is a great shame.

Now firstly, I do not think I'm the person for this job. If the Soccer Squirrel got going again or someone was to direct me to a good Australian football blog, I'll probably abandon this project, but meanwhile, I'll have a go.

I have pretty good qualifications in blogging, being a director and editor of Webdiary, a political media site. But my football qualifications are meagre to say the least.

Here they are. My football enthusiasm is quite recent, beginning with the 2002 World Cup, which was fortunately in our time zone so I enjoyed many games. I was at Uni at the time studying the Classics and there was always great crowds, often of the respective ethnic groups, in the Red Room (University of Queensland). It had occurred to me before when I had accidentally watched a game, but it became very clear then that this was the best game in the World, far superior to the other 'football' leagues.

I did play for two years when I was in Primary School, for The Gap Pastime Club. That was about three decades ago. Probably more even than playing, I remember a bloke who lived around the corner from me, a Pom called Mr Wiseman (his son about my age was called Sam), was every weekend and often on week days walking to the Club with a big netting-bag full of balls. Looking back I now recognise that he was one of the many dedicated pioneers in Australia, trying to establish the game he loved in a new land which just hadn't got it yet. He was doing it the right way too - teaching kids, for no money and just a little thanks. There's no way he'd remember me, though Sam might. A big Salud to the Wisemans, wherever they are.

My son Jacob has played the last two years for a local club, El Salvador, and through being the homeground linesman for the last half of the last season I was forced to learn the rules properly. That's a good indication of my lack of qualifications.

I've just 'joined' an over-35s team, who've just finished their season. They are now essentially a bunch of blokes who get together and play football twice a week, but I'm hoping that by next season I'll be fit enough to be useful to them.

They're my humble qualifications. I'm a tragic though, and will get up at any time of night to watch games on SBS, go to the pub to watch A-League games on Fox, unless of course they are at Suncorp Stadium, where I take my son and whichever of his mates want to go. Last Friday's trouncing of New Zealand was a cracker. Oh yeah, I'm a Queenslander and hence a natural Roar supporter.

That's it. All contributions and comments are welcome. I'll make entries as regularly as I can.