What have we learned from the Ersan Gulum saga?

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    Ersan GulumThe fallout to Melbourne-born and bred Besiktas defender Ersan Gulum’s decision to pledge his international future to Turkey rather than Australia has been immense. Debate has raged fiercely. The latest twist in the saga was Socceroos boss Holger Osieck publicly labelling the Turkish Football Federation as ‘collectors’.

    “I think no matter what quality a player offers … it is like being collectors that collect players for the sake of collecting,” Osieck said. “Four weeks ago no one talks about him and he did not even play, and now all of a suddenly he becomes the object of desire.”

    Osieck, as a German national, would have a well-formed opinion on the TFF, with Germany and Turkey having several battles over the years for national team players such as Mesut Ozil, Serdar Tasci, Nuri Sahi and the Altintop brothers to name a few, given Turks represent the largest ethnic minority in the Fatherland.

    But this is not about the Turkish.

    Turkey boss Guus Hiddink has been shrewd and clearly ruffled a few feathers in doing so, but he’s got his man. They have not broken any rules and that’s the nature of international football.

    Australia needs to realise this and the sooner we do, the better off we will be.

    Yet we have seen these issues before – Josip Simunic, Joey Didulica, Ante Seric – but it appears those running the Socceroos show have not learned anything from them.

    In this instance, at the end of the day, Gulum’s decision was his decision.

    Gulum said: “My family heritage is of Turkish descent and I am as Turkish as I am Australian. I walk the streets of Istanbul feeling right at home as I did in the back streets of Meadow Heights. It is the birth place of my parents, who also currently live in Turkey.

    “People would have differing views about my decision to play for Turkey, and I can assure everyone that it wasn’t an easy one.”

    You have got to respect him for making the decision either way, but what is alarming from an Australian perspective is the fact he named a complete lack of contact from the Socceroos set-up, at all age levels, as a reason behind his decision.

    The most damning aspect was when he said: “The first bit of contact came last week after the Turkish national team had called me for a possible call-up.”

    Yes, Gulum had been capped at under-23 level for Australia, but that was way back before the 2008 Olympics which he missed out on selection for.

    So if Osieck contacting him recently following his promotion to the Besiktas first-team was the first he had heard from the Socceroos set-up, at all age levels, in over two years then that’s a ridiculous situation, especially after he was named in the Turkish second tier team of the season last year.

    Everyone has had their say on this issue and people have pointed the finger at Graham Arnold and Pim Verbeek, but someone needs to be making these people accountable.

    Maybe Gulum was deemed not worthy of a call-up to the senior team or the youth set-up, but given his pedigree surely someone needed to keep in contact with the player. At least let him know what he needed to do to get a look-in.

    Australia is in a unique situation in the world of football, given the volume of players playing abroad, so systems and structures need to be put in place to ensure the FFA can maintain contact with these footballers.

    If something was in place, maybe Gulum’s decision would have been different. His comments certainly suggest so.

    And yes, Australia has had some success winning these dual nationality battles in recent times with players like Rhys Williams and Shane Lowry committing to the Socceroos, but Gulum’s saga shows there is a clear systematic issue which needs to be resolved.

    Alarmingly, I was in contact with another promising Australian-born talent, Newcastle’s 18-year-old Bradden Inman, back in August just after Osieck took over and he said he had not heard anything from the Socceroos set-up.

    Overnight Inman, who is nicknamed Kaka, was due to take his place in the Scotland Under-21 side which faced Northern Ireland’s Under-21 side.

    And while back in August after his Scotland Under-21s debut, Inman admitted he was still undecided about his international future, time is ticking away.

    Let’s hope we have learned something from this episode.

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