Lucas Neill doesn’t owe Australian football anything

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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75 Have your say

    Lucas Neill expresses bemusement.

    Soceroos captain Lucas Neill expresses bemusement. AAP Image/Julian Smith

    Has anyone here ever watched a game in Abu Dhabi? Anyone ever flown over to Dubai to catch Al-Ahli versus Al-Shabab in the derby? If not, why do so many Australian fans think it’s okay to denigrate Gulf football over Lucas Neill’s potential move to Al-Jazira?

    Neill’s expected transfer to the Abu Dhabi-based side has dragged on for over a week.

    The protracted affair continues to fuel hopes the Sydney-born defender could turn his back on a major payday in the Gulf in favour of a return to the A-League.

    He’d be a hero if he did, judging by online sentiment.

    Conversely, some of the vitriol posted on messageboards across the country says much about the xenophobia lurking beneath Australia’s multicultural veneer.

    Comments about playing for “FC Durka Durka,” statements linking his prospective new club to Al-Qaeda and demands for Neill to be dropped from the national team for being “money hungry” reek of a big-island country with a small-man mentality.

    But looking beyond the casual racism, my question to anyone with a steadfast opinion on football in the Gulf is this: have you ever actually seen a game?

    I know I’ve never seen a UAE Pro-League game in full and I try hard to follow leagues all across Asia.

    One man who has seen plenty of football in the Gulf is Young Socceroos coach Jan Versleijen, who twice coached Al-Jazira and was more recently in charge of Saudi club Al-Wehda.

    If so many Australian fans felt so strongly about the quality of Gulf football at the time, why didn’t they criticise Football Federation Australia upon Versleijen’s appointment to the national set-up?

    Is it because they didn’t know the first thing about the Gulf, its people or its football?

    Living in an age with limitless information at our fingertips, it seems a shame so many are willing to forgo this educational opportunity in favour of making lazy, ill-informed statements about cultures they know little about.

    I’m not defending the quality of football in the Gulf because quite frankly, I haven’t seen it.

    But a quick glance at the Al-Jazira squad reveals they’ve got ex-Brazilian international Ricardo Oliveira on their books, as well as Argentine midfielder and former Besiktas fan-favourite Matias Delgado.

    They’ve also got former Gamba Osaka goal machine Baré – who once ran out against Melbourne Victory in the AFC Champions League – and a host of current and former UAE internationals, including one of the most decorated of all, Subait Khater.

    And last night former Belgium coach Frank Vercauteren left his club Racing Club Genk to sign on as coach at Al-Jazira.

    That’s right, a man who spent his entire managerial career in Belgium left a club currently competing in the UEFA Champions League to take over as coach in what is supposed to be a “Mickey Mouse league.”

    Of course money played a role!

    Vercauteren wouldn’t be a professional if he didn’t command market rates for his services.

    And the same can be said of Australian veterans Lucas Neill and new Al-Nasr signing Mark Bresciano.

    But they don’t “owe” Australian football anything.

    They’re professional footballers who are entitled to command the salaries afforded to them.

    If that means turning their back on the A-League, so be it. We’ll find replacements.

    However, it does nothing for our credibility within the Asian Football Confederation when fans go around making inflammatory remarks about leagues they don’t understand.

    And while Socceroos coach Holger Osieck might not think the Gulf leagues are up to scratch, he’s at least seen some teams in action – not least because Al-Wahda made the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League the year Osieck’s Urawa Reds won it.

    At the end of the day, football offers us the ability to embrace other cultures and learn more about the world we live in.

    If that means a few more Australians can pinpoint Abu Dhabi on a map, so much the better.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (75)

    • August 19th 2011 @ 7:12am
      RIP Enke, said | August 19th 2011 @ 7:12am | ! Report


    • August 19th 2011 @ 7:23am
      The Special One said | August 19th 2011 @ 7:23am | ! Report

      + 2

    • August 19th 2011 @ 7:23am
      Bondy said | August 19th 2011 @ 7:23am | ! Report

      I think we tend to gauge West Asian Football based of their National Teams . I’ve been suspicious about West Asian Leagues ( quality @ commitment ) and i’ve never seen them .

      You’re getting a different form of football supporter now Mike that really doesn’t care too much about Kewell and Co, where now looking at our own kids in the A League to find and watch develop, i’ve been watching those guys play football for 15 years now it’s no skin of my nose if they don’t come back .Their more of an auxillary peice for the occasional soccer fan .

      Although i would say the likes of Lucas would feel disapointed about never playing in their own domestic comp especially if they decide to live in Oz after football, remember the A League was a pipedream for most of these guys 6 – 10 years ago .

      I’ll leave you with this somebody’s been spending a lot of time and money on a couch

      • Roar Guru

        August 19th 2011 @ 10:57am
        Fussball ist unser leben said | August 19th 2011 @ 10:57am | ! Report

        Bondy – that is GOLD!

        Got to feel sorry for “Voyeur” …

        Cesc Fabregas career details, so far:
        Arsenal: played 212 games – won 1 trophy
        Barcelona: played 1 game – won 1 trophy

    • August 19th 2011 @ 7:35am
      midfield general said | August 19th 2011 @ 7:35am | ! Report

      Maybe the fans are just deeply disappointed that likes of Neill and Bresciano are turning their backs on `our’ A league. From the players’ point of view, obviously money is an issue, but maybe they see the empty stands, politics and instability of the game here. I think they also keep referring to how badly Aloisi was treated when he came back.

      • August 19th 2011 @ 9:08am
        Football Fan said | August 19th 2011 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        Agree, Midfield general – Aloisi’s treatment seems to have touched a nerve in the dressing room, hasn’t it…

        • August 19th 2011 @ 9:32am
          Lu said | August 19th 2011 @ 9:32am | ! Report

          I’m a little over this “Aloisi’s treatment” BS.. you think the likes of Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney, Ashley Cole, Ronaldhino etc, etc don’t get stick from opposition or even their own supporters when they play club football in their own country?

          What makes current or former socceroos so special that they can’t get the same treatment? Becuase they’re legends? Pfft..

          Maybe what they’re trying to say is that they require a heftier paypacket to put up with the abuse and sleep better at night..

          I love the socceroos and are proud of anyone who dons that jersey.. but some of these cats need to harden the f@#k up.

          • August 19th 2011 @ 10:27am
            pete4 said | August 19th 2011 @ 10:27am | ! Report

            Exactly right!

          • August 19th 2011 @ 11:07am
            Kasey said | August 19th 2011 @ 11:07am | ! Report

            Aloisi had ONE bad season in the HAL, the 1st year after moving from the Mariners to SFC on a huge(by Aussie standards) wage..what did he expect? sunshine and roses? He more than redeemed himself in following seasons for the Sky Blues in winning trophies and then helping Heart get off the ground. I lost a lot of respect for Mark Schwartzer for his comments in using the “Aloisi issue” as a reason he’ll never play in the A-League. Pathetic. So just because these guys produced such a magical experience for the country and its long sufferring football fans, they are somehow immune from criticism? bollox.

            • August 19th 2011 @ 11:14am
              Football Fan said | August 19th 2011 @ 11:14am | ! Report

              Yet they are somehow honour bound to play in the A-League based purely on the fact they are Socceroos?

          • Roar Guru

            August 19th 2011 @ 12:34pm
            nordozzz said | August 19th 2011 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

            with you there Lu, am surprised to hear some of our NT players mention it tbh… it is a bit soft really…

        • August 19th 2011 @ 10:00am
          Matt said | August 19th 2011 @ 10:00am | ! Report

          I think the perfect scenario for John should have been to come back to Australia and play for Adelaide United.
          A home town hero coming back to play alongside his brother to finish his career where it began.

          If players like Lucas or Harry want to come back here eventually I think they need to really look at what happened to John and the choices that were made and how they contribute to your legacy (or in Harry’s case brand).

    • August 19th 2011 @ 7:35am
      JohnL said | August 19th 2011 @ 7:35am | ! Report

      Well said

    • August 19th 2011 @ 7:41am
      jamesb said | August 19th 2011 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      at the end of the day, Lucas Neill can do whatever he wants.

      As far as the NT is concerned, Neill could be useful in the qualifyers, but when it comes to 2014, IMO i don’t think Neill will be there anyway.

      Guys like Spira, De Vere, or even switching Rhys Williams to centre back are options and of course one or two other defendes could also come through during that period

      I’m also not a fan of having old slow defenders playing for Australia.

      As for the HAL, it needs new revenue streams, not just to entice old players like Neill, Bresc or Kewell, but to make the game prosper here.

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