FFA blocking the path of talented Aussie kids

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    Socceroo Archie Thompson (centre) meets with kids at a soccer clinic at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Wednesday, October 4, 2006. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

    Socceroo Archie Thompson (centre) meets with kids at a soccer clinic at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Wednesday, October 4, 2006. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

    The story of a sixteen year-old Sydney schoolboy’s attempt to begin a youth contract with English Premier League club Aston Villa probably didn’t rate highly on the most-read football stories of the past week.

    But in truth, the wider ramifications of the case could have huge consequences for the development of our nation’s future footballers.

    The boy in question is Reece Caira, a midfielder previously with Blacktown City. He is eligible for British citizenship through both parents, making it possible for Villa to sign him.

    Or so it may have been at one stage.

    Football Federation Australia, which had recently flagged a desire to tighten up on the transfer of its budding starlets abroad, now appears to be making Caira’s case its watershed one.

    Key to any international transfer is the release of the player’s registration and subsequent international transfer certificate. It’s the very thing the FFA is withholding.

    The FFA is, of course, only acting under the guidelines and rights handed to them by FIFA.

    Under FIFA laws introduced three years ago, players under the age of eighteen cannot move abroad simply for football reasons.

    But youngsters have been able to clinch moves overseas through a loophole that has allowed parents to moved with their children, citing reasons other than football.

    The FFA has now decided to crack down on that practice, with Caira’s case the first time the governing body has flexed its muscles.

    Presumably, the FFA is not making its decision to change its process on a whim.

    But it must still be examined if the shift of policy is the right one for our nation’s youngsters, particularly at the moment.

    The FFA, with its countless blueprints and future plans, has identified that a player’s development in the world’s best footballing countries starts far younger than our elite coaching structure has thus far extended.

    This is commendable.

    But is the system ready for the FFA to make the bold statement it is with Caira?

    Because, ultimately, what that stance says is that the FFA is confident Caira can get the same standard of training here as he can at Villa’s academy.

    Caira is simply attempting to take the path well worn by the likes of current national players Harry Kewell, Brad Jones, Luke Wilkshire, Rhys Williams and Scott McDonald.

    Would their development have been the same without that grounding at English academies, with full-time training under some of the world’s most proven youth coaches?

    It is highly doubtful.

    Caira’s parents have already flagged an intention to distance their son from his Australian ties, and any future national representation, if he is unable to clinch the move to Villa.

    That is one issue.

    But the real rod the FFA is making for its own back is by acting in the detriment of its own future at national level.

    Right now, Australia is not able to offer the same level of full-time expert tutelage English and other major European academies can. And the FFA is kidding itself if it thinks otherwise.

    It no doubt has aspirations that – one day – Australia will be able to consistently produce its own home-grown, home-trained stars.

    That day will be the one when Australian football really arrives.

    But despite all the optimistic press conferences in the world, that day might be further off than the FFA think.

    And holding our budding stars back until then won’t help, either.

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    The Crowd Says (22)

    • Roar Guru

      June 5th 2009 @ 9:22am
      Pippinu said | June 5th 2009 @ 9:22am | ! Report

      Interesting issue.

      Here is my question. How is it possible that Villa knows about this 16 yo ahead of the A-League clubs? Would the Villa academy (over the next two years) be valuable than a 16 yo getting senior experience in an A-League club? (recalling that it might be years before he gets to play against senior players)

      Coincidentally, only yesterday I put up a thread that suggested a replacement for the current salary cap regime that would give A-League clubs a huge incentive to sign such 16 year olds, and have them in the squad as actual back-ups.

      • December 10th 2009 @ 5:39pm
        Ross Miloseivc said | December 10th 2009 @ 5:39pm | ! Report

        Obvisously Mr.Pippinu you and the FFA Corp; administration (Lowey/Buckley-AFL) and have never played at professional level or have been in a pro set up inside Europe!!! I am sorry to say. 1. You asked how Villa found this kid,,,they didn’t the kid and parents went to them. Do some research and read a bit, it may make you more aware og the situation. 2. The Villa academy is one of the best in Europe and develops good young players, he would learn more there in 2 years then playing 1st team in the A-league, because he would learn from good youth team Pro coachs, not 3rd and 4th rate coachs that are here in the A-League and at youth leauge level.

        Sorry, if you get offended, but I have played in Europe and played at the top level here in Australia and I would choose Europe any day to build my understanding of the game off a professional grounding setup. Australian football has a long, long, long way to go, before, we even get close to the professionalism and training they have in Europe. The boy should be allowed to stay and train and play, he would be better off there.

        I agree with the article writer, I think FIFA’s / FFAs rules are wrong and we will see Aussie kids leaving Australia and playing in England, Scottish, and Euro county shirts in the future, because of this law. We will loose our kids to foregin shores for good. As we did with Craig Johnson, who played for Liverpool and England in the 80s. When Craig was 16 in Newcastle, he went to Newcastle KB United and was told by a 3-4th rate coach Alan Vest to leave because he wasn’t good enough. He also wore the England shirt instead of the Socceroos Green and Gold…….Think about it.

        Watching the A-League here this year, I see marked improvement in many areas of the game, admin, marketing etc, but at a football level, I feel we are going backwards. We need to bring-up better players, better coaches and better dynamic to the game here. Then we will get a better product in view of the football public and for them to enjoy what they are watching.

        I hope I have added some fuel to this debate and article. Maybe the FFA will also see it and start to allow our kids to develop via a professional bridgiing contract that could be easily introduced via the FFA and the club in question. This could have a dramatic increae to our game here in Australia. Reason being, we need to have our kids see what Europe has to offer and how they do things over there will benifit us in the long run.


    • June 5th 2009 @ 10:20am
      whiskeymac said | June 5th 2009 @ 10:20am | ! Report

      Cannot force players to play for Australia but for every Cascarino and Didliuca scenario we hopefully still get a Viduka, Spiranovic, Kewell, and dare I say Bouzanis and Williams. There are no answers to this i think but what we don’t want is players to be resenting the FFA for torpedoing their opportunities.

      It would seem Villa and the other clubs have a lot more scouts and, more likely, contacts here than the HAL clubs… or possibly the parents sent off a dvd?

      and if there was a choice on the table between training with Aston Villa or (insert name of any HAL club) i guess the choice was easy?If a 16yo and his parents have the chance to train at a big EPL club how bitter would they be to be denied this opportunity to train and “potentially” play on the big stage?

    • Roar Guru

      June 5th 2009 @ 10:30am
      Pippinu said | June 5th 2009 @ 10:30am | ! Report


      I agree it would be like a dream come true for a 16 yo (for an EPL club to show some interest – although I’m not sure if many at that age will understand the long tortuous path ahead of them to just get a sniff at actually playing for the first team).

      Even pre-dating the A-League, we have sufficient examples of 17 and 18 year olds playing senior games in our comp before getting success overseas – this should be the primary focus of the FFA and the A-League – giving senior experience to the very best 17 and 18 year olds.

    • Roar Guru

      June 5th 2009 @ 10:34am
      Pippinu said | June 5th 2009 @ 10:34am | ! Report

      On a similar note, 442 had a great article a couple of issues back on the West Ham youth team that blitzed the youth FA cup about 10 years ago (they won home and away 9-0 against Coventry, who made the cup final again the following year).

      The team boasted Joe Cole and Carrick.

      But virtually everyone else disappeared into oblivion.

      Interestingly, there were two Australians: Garcia, who ultimately did get a chance playing EPL with Hull; and Michael Ferrante, who two seasons back left the Victory to join the Nix, where he has hardly been sighted.

      Every young, aspiring player should read the article, so they understand that being within an touching distance of making it big, can still be like a million miles away.

    • June 5th 2009 @ 12:19pm
      whiskeymac said | June 5th 2009 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

      i agree – getting to the top and then staying there in (any) sport is quite rare and people (parents and players) need to be made aware that for every 100 or so only a handful make it and even less stay onto an impressive career. not only West Ham (great example btw) but also players here like liejer (knowing you like MV) going o/s early when not the finished product. Zullo’s resistance to o/s overtures is commendable for long term vision – as was Emertons resistance to Man Utd back in the day.
      However conversley is stopping them going to trial at Villa, where no doubt he is going from a small pond to a big one, the answer in the education of youngsters and realisation of the rigours of ‘making it”. for every 10 liejers (not picking on him per se just following on from the example of o/s struggling and not remembering the boys stuck in romania) theremaybe a Kewell or McDonald.
      or is it just stopping someone playing overseas because we want them here in the Aleague reserve teams? am not saying the FFA shouldn’t be doing what they can to make the game the strongest they can here (and i would be dismayed if they didn’t) but i cant help thinking that there must be another way to achieving it than having this rather draconian response which, to the individual concerned, must be devastating.
      As Paddy says the answer isprobably in pointing to the HAL teams and youth set up and saying they are as good – learn your trade here then chance your arm. but for this kid, right now, that may not be the best option in fulfilling his potential because what he gets at Villa is most likely more than what he could get here.

    • June 5th 2009 @ 12:55pm
      Ben of Phnom Penh said | June 5th 2009 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

      Tennis had to place an age limit for major tournament entry as a similar problem was emerging. Parents were driving kids at younger and younger ages, harder and harder and in the end huge numbers of them were burning out in their mid-teens and it was damaging their lives.

      Perhaps the argument needs to be whether 18 is too old rather than whether an age limit should be imposed at all.

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