After the A-League’s successful debut season in 2005-06, football in Australia has had it’s problems.
Poor attendances, crappy TV coverage, financial mismanagement, debates about conflict of interest, public spats with high profile multi-billionaires, on-field violence, and a stab in the back from FIFA.
Yep, it’s pretty much business as usual for football down under.
But now there is a renewed sense of optimism (not for the first time mind you) in the shape of a short, slightly over the hill, dashingly handsome (in the most heterosexual of ways), global footballing icon.
Enter Alessandro Del Piero.
Over the hill might be a tad harsh I know. Last season Del Piero helped Juventus remain undefeated on their way to regaining Serie A, playing in 31 games and contributing six goals (two of which were game winners) along the way.
Not bad for a 38-year-old playing in the third best league in Europe. That will piss off the entire municipality of Leichhardt but let’s face facts – Serie A has been on a downward slide to irrelevance ever since the weekly highlight show was taken off the SBS Sunday morning timeslot.
While Del Piero’s impact with the bianconeri has been experiencing the law of diminishing returns recently, he’s certainly still got the footballing chops to assist a big name club in their efforts to pull themselves out of the doldrums and recapture former glories.
But enough about the Liverpool Football Club.
Fortunately for Australian fans he turned his back on numerous advances from the UK, China, Middle East and USA, and instead signed with Sydney FC – much to the delight of many on the Eastern seaboard.
Del Piero’s signature cost a measly $4 million, along with a handshake deal that includes all you can eat pizza and pasta from the Italian Forum on Norton Street. It’s the largest contract paid to a footballer of any code in Australia.
For that outlay, Sydney FC and the A-League are hopeful ‘Il Pinturicchio’ can weave his brand of magic on the park regularly, bring his club into title contention, fuel the newly established local rivalry with Sydney United aka Western Sydney Wanderers, draw big crowds everywhere he plays, and generally create enough of a positive buzz that the A-League is no longer in the footballing basement.
Basically,we’re hoping for the direct opposite of the Harry Kewell experience.
No pressure, son.
Standing in the way of Del Piero’s success will be overenthusiastic centre backs ready to take a piece of the Italian’s maestro’s shins, incompetent finishing from Sydney FC’s strike force wasting chance after glorious chance, and playing fields that resemble the potato farms of Northern Ireland.
While I’m all for fair play, I really hope that the referees do their best to ‘protect’ Del Piero from a physical onslaught that has the capacity to derail his Sydney stay very quickly.
And I pray that Lovrek, Powell and Co. will put away their chances lest there be an Underbelly style hit squad waiting outside the gates of the Sydney Football Stadium. As for the playing fields…well, two out of three ain’t bad!
Personally I can’t wait to get out to the SFS and cheer on the little master. With the Eels suffering in football purgatory, the Swans on the cusp of an inevitably heartbreaking loss to Collingwood, and the Wallabies just absolutely rubbish, I’ll be jumping on the FC bandwagon and swearing my allegiance to the Sky Blues.
Now let’s re-open the chequebook and get Scholes and Giggs Down Under!