The announcement from FIFA that the Australia-New Zealand bid had won selection for the 2023 women’s World Cup has sent the football community over the moon.
Interestingly, your writer got an email during the week from a well-placed source in South Korea, one of the more powerful figures in the game in that country, telling me a story that appeared in the Australian press last week attributing quotes to Jade North had caused quite a ruckus at North’s club, Incheon United.
The story, which appeared on various websites in Australia, quoted North as saying, “I played three games in a row for Incheon after returning from international duty against Japan and things were going well.
“But for some reason I haven’t even been in the squad in the past five weeks and it’s now just a matter of keeping myself fit and trying to get a move.”
Damning words: trying to get a move.
This, apparently, was all news to Incheon and they bailed up the player demanding an explanation. North, according to my source, “told them that he never talked about wanting to move or mentioned anything ‘behind-the-scenes’… it seems like he said something in Australia thinking that it would never get back to Korea.
“The fact is, the coach [Ilija Petkovic] just doesn’t rate him which has been fairly clear from the beginning – though it can certainly be said that as he only played three games in an unfamiliar position, he never got a fair crack of the whip.”
(Bloody internet. You’ve got to be careful what you say – a few careless words and they can come back to bite you in the arse. Hard. I’ve learned that myself, even though I didn’t always heed the lesson the first time. Such a mad dog.)
Having missed a chance to move in the August 31 transfer deadline, North’s lucky, then, that he seems to have such a loyal champion in Pim Verbeek.
And with Lucas Neill missing from national duty once again, he is sure to assume a leadership role in the centre of defence for Australia Saturday night AEST.
But was the move to Asia worth it?
The $2 million contract was the big sweetener, of course, seriously good money for a middling A-League player, but primarily North made his transfer to Korea to keep himself in the World Cup frame.
Which, at the time, would have seemed like a good idea, with so few Socceroos playing at home. But now they’re filing through inbound immigration like a planeload of Japanese tourists on a package tour.
The rules of the game have changed. Verbeek now seems to have come around to the idea that playing in Australia is good enough and, crucially, all the “returning Roos” have the distinct advantage of being in the national coach’s face pretty much week-in, week-out, though only Jason Culina and Shane Steffanuto have made the trip to Korea. North, meanwhile, is so visible in Seoul he might as well be playing behind the DMZ.
Too late to even return to Australia, though there was talk this week of a return as a guest player to North Queensland Fury, the club he was signed on to as a marquee player before being released for Incheon having not kicked a ball.
Ending up in Townsville is hardly where he would have hoped to end up, but anything’s got to be a better result than North’s season in purgatory at Incheon.