The Olyroos may have reached Tokyo 2020 with all the finesse of Eric the Eel, but there’s no doubt their qualification is a huge achievement and a major boost for Australian football.
Australia coach Holger Osieck says he feels “sorry” promising defender Ersan Gulum has turned his back on the Socceroos to commit his future to Turkey.
The Australian-born 23-year-old has been the subject of a recent tug-of-war between countries but his omission from the Socceroos’ 23-man Asian Cup squad on Tuesday ended hopes he could end up sporting the green and gold.
The Besiktas defender was called up by Turkey coach Guus Hiddink for last month’s friendly against the Netherlands but the fact he did not play meant he was still eligible to represent Australia.
Osieck revealed on Tuesday he thought he had convinced Gulum to commit to Australia after a face-to-face meeting last month but said the player later changed his mind on the advice of his father.
“I thought it was a done deal so I included him in the (extended squad) of 50 and then unfortunately things have turned around,” Osieck said.
“In particular his father played a role and he said that he should opt for Turkey because he plays in Turkey and he gets his living there and they feel a lot of pressure from Turkish media and supporters.”
Osieck said he respected Gulum’s decision but said the circumstances were “very, very unfortunate”.
“It’s personal decision and you have to respect it however for my personal point of view after seeing him play I thought he would be a good player down the road for Australia,” Osieck said.
“He’s got some good ingredients… and he’s still young he could play for another seven, eight years so from that point of view I feel really sorry that it didn’t happen but basically it’s his decision.”
Gulum’s omission leaves Australia’s left back stocks looking decidedly thin following the retirement of Scott Chipperfield, with David Carney the only recognised left back in the Asian Cup squad.