Representing Australia used to be an honour – so what has changed?

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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164 Have your say

    There are no real winners in the latest club versus country row, which highlights just how far apart the FFA and A-League clubs have drifted.

    The National Arbitration Tribunal has ruled that A-League clubs must release all players requested for this month’s AFC U-23 Championship in China.

    “Going into today’s hearing we believed that we had a strong case to select players from the A-League for national representative teams under the long standing contractual relationship with each A-League club set out in the club participation agreement,” said Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop following the announcement.

    “It is not ideal that this Asian Football Confederation tournament falls outside a designated FIFA international window, however, the scheduling is outside FFA’s control.”

    He’s right that it’s not ideal the tournament falls outside a FIFA window, although the AFC won’t be unduly troubled given that several of the competing nations are in the midst of their winter break.

    And this an AFC which, by and large, has never warmed to Australia’s inclusion.

    If they don’t like us now, just imagine what they’d think if we sent a second-string team to what is literally the U-23 Asian Cup.

    Yet it’s hard to disagree with former Socceroos shot-stopper Mark Bosnich, who criticised the decision to call up key A-League players midway through the season.

    “(I)f you’re trying to promote the A-League as your premier competition, but you continue to decimate it with under-23s and you don’t have international breaks, then it takes away,” Bosnich said on Fox Sports on Saturday.

    “The clubs and the fans and the people who watch on TV, in my opinion, are not getting value for money.”

    It’s true. And the fact the FFA can’t be bothered to follow the lead of every single major football league on the planet and incorporate international breaks speaks volumes for their lack of football nous.

    Steven Lowy

    (Photo by Don Arnold/Getty Images)

    But international breaks wouldn’t have helped here, and it’s not a problem powerful regional rivals like South Korea and Japan have to worry about given that both the K League Classic and J. League are currently between seasons.

    Little wonder the likes of Dijon midfielder Kwon Chang-hoon and current Stuttgart striker Takuma Asano used the 2016 tournament as a springboard to bigger and better things.

    That doesn’t hold much sway with either Adelaide United chairman Greg Griffin or Central Coast Mariners chief executive Shaun Mielekamp though – the latter of whom calling the AFC U-23 Championship “a meaningless tournament”.

    But here’s the thing. Griffin is a former AFL player agent. And before he joined Western Sydney Wanderers and then the Mariners, Mielekamp worked for the Penrith Panthers and South Sydney Rabbitohs in the NRL.

    Both of them understandably want the best for their respective clubs.

    Yet both of them view football through the same prism as every other Australian sport, and neither seems willing to acknowledge the global nature of football.

    Part of that global nature is tournaments like the AFC U-23 Championship, and if we ever want to forge closer relations with our neighbours in Asia, that means taking tournaments like this one seriously.

    This is a squad, it’s worth remembering that has failed to qualify for each of the past two Olympic Games in London and Rio de Janeiro respectively.

    It used to be that representing your country was the highest honour a player could earn in any age group, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that some of the players now at the centre of the latest club versus country tussle have already played in the qualifying campaign, and deserve the chance to compete in the finals.

    But that qualifying campaign took place outside of the A-League season, and it’s easy to understand why clubs are unhappy to lose their best players.

    There are no easy answers here.

    But what is certain is that representing your nation should be a huge accolade.

    Sadly for football fans, this latest chapter makes it feel more like a horrible chore.

    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 (164)

    • January 1st 2018 @ 6:12am
      Kangajets said | January 1st 2018 @ 6:12am | ! Report

      A football article without mentioning how good Sydney tc were
      or how good the game between victory and jets was,
      and the backs to the wall resilience of Brisbane Roar .

      • January 1st 2018 @ 8:23am
        Fadida said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:23am | ! Report

        Amazing that Sydney’s brilliance is ignored. It’s almost as if people are only looking for negatives….

        • Columnist

          January 1st 2018 @ 8:00pm
          Mike Tuckerman said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:00pm | ! Report

          There was an article on Sydney FC published on The Roar two days ago.

          • January 1st 2018 @ 8:13pm
            Grobelaar said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:13pm | ! Report


          • January 1st 2018 @ 9:21pm
            Redondo said | January 1st 2018 @ 9:21pm | ! Report

            Don’t worry Mike – I’ve reported that article to the mods and hopefully it will be removed shortly. No idea how it slipped through.

            • January 1st 2018 @ 9:55pm
              Kangajets said | January 1st 2018 @ 9:55pm | ! Report


    • January 1st 2018 @ 6:56am
      Buddy said | January 1st 2018 @ 6:56am | ! Report

      We want to be part of AFC but we want special rules and exemptions for Australia seems to be the order of the day. We have a professional league that runs parrallel to many of the “big leagues” around the globe but we don’t acknowledge the international breaks that are put there to benefit all clubs who might be decimated by cll ups for country.
      It is complicated but we lack an identity and a backbone and so the issues fester and it is one more thing against the governing body in a lengthy list of complaints about their handling of the game here. We participate in the AFC Champions League but make it difficult, almost punishing for participating teams. We complain in the A League off season about the schedule but enjoy the fact that when the conpetition kicks off in Feb, the two powerhouse countries are just starting up after their winter break.
      What’s it all about then?

      • January 1st 2018 @ 11:59am
        Lionheart said | January 1st 2018 @ 11:59am | ! Report

        The FFA has made changes to help the ACL teams, adding some byes for those teams involved. Noteworthy though, they refuse to help out during their playoffs so Roar’s schedule will be the same as last year with 4 games in 12 days with much travel in between. Only certain clubs get help.

        • January 1st 2018 @ 12:14pm
          Waz said | January 1st 2018 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

          Aloisi was adamant they will send an NPL squad to the Mariners game if it’s not shifted. Pointing out that the only reason Borrello got noticed and transferred for several hundred thousand dollars was his performance in the ACL

    • January 1st 2018 @ 7:53am
      Grobelaar said | January 1st 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      Ratings for Sydney FC v Perth Glory up 75%

      • Roar Guru

        January 1st 2018 @ 11:19am
        Cousin Claudio said | January 1st 2018 @ 11:19am | ! Report

        There were 20% more people at the SFC v Perth game than the Everton v Bournemouth English Premier League game.
        And the Glory away fans had to travel 5,400 kms.

        The death of the EPL is nigh too!

        • January 1st 2018 @ 12:13pm
          Nick Symonds said | January 1st 2018 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

          And Bournemouth won the match 2-1.

          Shots on goal – Bournemouth 18 v Everton 6.

          Shots on target – Bournemouth 7 v Everton 1.

          Bournemouth population = 183,000

        • Roar Guru

          January 1st 2018 @ 12:48pm
          Cousin Claudio said | January 1st 2018 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

          Population of England – 65.64 million
          Distance from east coast to west cost – 475 km.

          • January 1st 2018 @ 1:12pm
            Nick Symonds said | January 1st 2018 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

            Distance between A.F.C. Bournemouth (Dean Court) and Everton F.C. (Goodison Park) is 193 miles (311 kilometers)

            Moore Park to Parramatta = 38.5 kilometers

            Manly to Penrith = 76.2 kilometers

            Sydney is tiny. Every NRL match should be a sellout!

        • January 1st 2018 @ 2:00pm
          Nick Symonds said | January 1st 2018 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

          “The death of the EPL is nigh too!”

          The EPL is so boring that even the A-League is more popular –

          OLD NEWS – “More Aussies now watching A-League than Premier League on TV”

          • January 1st 2018 @ 2:57pm
            Kangajets said | January 1st 2018 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

            Good news nick

            That means rugby league will take over England

            Or maybe CHEESE rolling , great spirt that

          • January 1st 2018 @ 4:47pm
            Footoverhand said | January 1st 2018 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

            Thanks for the link, seems football is doing better than we think.

    • January 1st 2018 @ 7:58am
      Waz said | January 1st 2018 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      Two seasons ago Brisbane finished third, missing out on the title by a point. In the middle of that season Roar lost 3 first team players to international U23 duty including top scorer Maclaren and Borrello.

      In the three games they were away Roar won only one point from a possible nine and went on to miss the title by a single point.

      What did Aloisi learn out of that farce?

      That season he had one of the youngest, most dynamic squads in the competition. This season he has one of the oldest.

      It has nothing to do with the “honour of representing Australia” it’s simply that in a salary capped League you only have 23 players to choose from, there’s no loan system, no transfers and no international breaks, so losing first team players for 3-5 weeks is unacceptable.

      Players who are playing regularly in the first team must be be given special consideration, otherwise U23 players will disappear from first team football.

      How many first team players will SFC lose for example??

      • Roar Rookie

        January 1st 2018 @ 8:21am
        Stevo said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        If I can count it appears that SFC have ZERO players called up. Definitely a deliberate strategy by Arnie to focus entirely on the HAL and not get caught up in losing players to representative tournaments. A big FU by Arnie to FFA.

        • January 1st 2018 @ 8:24am
          Fadida said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:24am | ! Report

          Arnie often goes for experience

          • January 1st 2018 @ 8:30am
            Waz said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:30am | ! Report

            He does, and to be fair the only reason there’s so many U23 players in the HAL is because they’re cheaper and fit under the cap easier.

            But last time it was Brisbane impacted, this time Adelaide and Mariners could get hit really hard. The lesson to coaches is simple – don’t play the kids.

            • January 1st 2018 @ 8:35am
              Fadida said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:35am | ! Report

              Or is the lesson, have good depth, so you can replace the good kids with more good kids?

              • January 1st 2018 @ 8:55am
                Waz said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:55am | ! Report

                “is the lesson, have good depth, so you can replace the good kids with more good kids?” … that’s not quite the way youth development works. It’s extremly rare to have two good young kids coming thorough in the same position – at least in the A league where development squads are typically only 30-45 strong

              • Columnist

                January 1st 2018 @ 8:06pm
                Mike Tuckerman said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:06pm | ! Report

                If they had their finger on the pulse, I think Football Federation Australia should be concerned by Graham Arnold’s tactics (which, I must stress, he’s perfectly entitled to employ).

                But it gets back to the heart of the question several others have already posed. Is the A-League a development league, or a showpiece competition?

              • Roar Rookie

                January 1st 2018 @ 8:14pm
                Grobbelaar said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:14pm | ! Report

                No reason why it can’t be both, and of course Arnie is playing by the rules, his focus is winning the league,

            • Roar Rookie

              January 1st 2018 @ 8:37am
              Stevo said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:37am | ! Report

              Yes and including FFA rules:


              “Three players in the squad must also be under 20 years of age. In addition to these three under 20 players, clubs are allowed to sign an additional three youth players onto full-time contracts at a lower pay rate than the rest of the squad.”

          • Roar Rookie

            January 1st 2018 @ 8:30am
            Stevo said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:30am | ! Report

            He’s more focussed on an older more experienced squad that can get him silverware that’s for sure.

            • January 1st 2018 @ 10:19am
              Nemesis said | January 1st 2018 @ 10:19am | ! Report

              Pretty sure Graham Arnold’s squads at CCM included some of the cream of AUS youth, who now play for the senior National Team.

              But, let’s keep cherry-picking facts to suit our narrative.

              • January 1st 2018 @ 10:49am
                Kangajets said | January 1st 2018 @ 10:49am | ! Report

                Josh rose

                Cherry picking indeed

              • January 1st 2018 @ 11:29am
                Nemesis said | January 1st 2018 @ 11:29am | ! Report

                I’m no fan of Graham Arnold, but he is the coach who helped launch the professional careers of:

                Musti Amini
                Maty Ryan
                Trent Sainsbury
                Tom Rogic
                Bernie Ibini
                Danny Vukovic
                Oli Bozanic

                Of lesser repute, but still serviceable
                Nick Fitzgerald
                Anthony Caceres
                Mitch Duke

              • January 1st 2018 @ 12:03pm
                Lionheart said | January 1st 2018 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

                that’s a good point, but it’s not how he has worked at Sydney. How many youth careers has he launched at Sydney? How many youth players will he lose to the AFC U23 tournament?

      • January 1st 2018 @ 4:00pm
        Kangajets said | January 1st 2018 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

        Where is Mcclaren playing at now ?

        • January 1st 2018 @ 4:56pm
          Footoverhand said | January 1st 2018 @ 4:56pm | ! Report

          He is at Darmstadt 98, with rumours that Hearts want him in January transfer window.
          He had a good preseason with the second division German club, but mysteriously hasn’t played much in the season propper, Frings (the coach that brought him to Darmstadt) has been replaced recently, so who knows if the new coach will play him more, or the Hearts interest is more than a rumour.

    • January 1st 2018 @ 8:24am
      not so super said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      good to see MIke turning over a new leaf and not going for cliched sensationalism this year

      • January 1st 2018 @ 8:31am
        Waz said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:31am | ! Report

        … and yet he discusses a very valid issue. Unlike you lol.

    • January 1st 2018 @ 8:33am
      Fadida said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      Representing Australia used to be an honour?

      I might ask;
      Mark Bosnich (skipped plenty of games)
      Tony Dorigo (chose England)
      Jamie McMaster (chose England)
      Craig Johnston (chose England then Scotland)
      Ante Seric (chose Croatia)
      Josip Simunic (chose Croatia)
      Joey Didiluca (chose Croatia)

      if representing Australia was always an honour.

      It’s an underage tournament. No one cares who wins. It’s should be about what is best for player development. Those players who are first team regulars in the A-league are better served staying and playing in the higher standard competition.

      • January 1st 2018 @ 8:40am
        Waz said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:40am | ! Report

        Agree. They should play in the higher standard competition – the A League.

        There’s no benefit in thumping Laos U23’s 13-0 and getting knocked out by one tough game against the one well prepared opponent.

        It’s not like we’re short of good young players to send. A win-win would have been to leave the majority of the first team players in the HAL and pick some of the fringe players like Akbari … that way we would have accelerated the development of 15+ more players.

      • January 1st 2018 @ 8:44am
        Rolly said | January 1st 2018 @ 8:44am | ! Report

        It should be an honour to represent your country
        Country comes first over club any time and every time
        There should be a break in the regular season for national team duty
        A player will benefit greatly and more so from international duty than playing for their club. experience at international tournaments can only help a player in future tournaments for the national team and at club llevel .
        One of the biggest advanatages our code has over other codes in this country is we play internationals real internationals no other codes can say that .international duty has to come first .

        • January 1st 2018 @ 3:40pm
          Council said | January 1st 2018 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

          Rolly, Rugby plays real international matches. We don’t even have friendly, just Tests.

          I wonder if that’s part of the reason I agree with Country over Club?

          • January 1st 2018 @ 4:03pm
            Kangajets said | January 1st 2018 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

            I think country over club, but the A league should schedule breaks for internationals

            • January 3rd 2018 @ 1:03pm
              reuster75 said | January 3rd 2018 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

              Part of the problem in having international breaks is ground availability – as none of the clubs own their own grounds that makes it harder for scheduling as they have to share their games with other codes (execpt Adelaide and Perth). This also plays a role in terms of scheduling for sides involved in Asian Champions League. Also mid week a-league games often aren’t well attended in the past (although attendance full stop is an issue at the moment). The debate about whether or not to have an international break should be part of a broader conversation about ground availability.

      • January 1st 2018 @ 9:43am
        j,binnie said | January 1st 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        Fad- You mention Craig Johnson on your list. Craig was a very puzzled kid in those days for under the regulations at the time he could have played for South Africa (born there), Australia (domiciled with his parents as a kid), England (because he played there and had the correct “parentage”) and Scotland (one of his parents was a Scot).
        Craig never played a full international for any of those countries,amassing only 2 Under 23 caps for England. Cheers jb
        ps Jamie Young ,the Roar goalkeeper has the same problem. Travelling to England at his own expense he played in lower leagues but came to the attention of selectors and actually won caps at various under-age levels for that country. Jamie was born and raised in Australia, has a Scottish father and, so like Craig, could have chosen to play for Australia,England or Scotland.such are the rules.jb

        • January 1st 2018 @ 9:57am
          Waz said | January 1st 2018 @ 9:57am | ! Report

          jb. Young also qualifies to play for India as well.

          • January 1st 2018 @ 11:38am
            Chopper said | January 1st 2018 @ 11:38am | ! Report

            Did he spend a lot of time in Birmingham? lol

            • January 1st 2018 @ 4:04pm
              Kangajets said | January 1st 2018 @ 4:04pm | ! Report


              Nothing wrong with Birmingham

          • January 1st 2018 @ 2:58pm
            j,binnie said | January 1st 2018 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

            Waz – Don’t think so .Jamie’s mother is a native of Sri- Lanka and I don’t know if that country has a national football team.
            For-by that fact I think his 8 caps for England Under age teams would rule him out of playing with Australia,the land of his birth.Cheers jb.

            • January 1st 2018 @ 3:10pm
              Waz said | January 1st 2018 @ 3:10pm | ! Report

              Good correction jb, Sri Lanka it is, and as you wrote “Jamie was born and raised in Australia, has a Scottish father and, so like Craig, could have chosen to play for Australia,England or Scotland.such are the rules” … you can add Sri Lanka to that list of “could have’s” …

        • January 1st 2018 @ 2:59pm
          Kangajets said | January 1st 2018 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

          Poor Craig Johnson

          Forced to retire way too young

          He did it the hardest way , going over as a teenager on his own in Middlesbrough and ended up winning a champions league with Liverpool

          • January 1st 2018 @ 5:01pm
            Footoverhand said | January 1st 2018 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

            Liverpool virtually gave him an ultimatum, play for us, or play for Australia.
            He chose Liverpool.

      • January 1st 2018 @ 10:01am
        LuckyEddie said | January 1st 2018 @ 10:01am | ! Report

        Well said Fadida. These wasteful junkets are doing nothing for football in Australia. Money and talent that could be used to give the game a boost via marketing is being wasted in a tournement that no one cares about.

        As for playing for Australia, it sure is a great honour at senior level but these under something teams are becoming a joke. I mean does anyone know who is the under 17 WC holders, does anyone care.

        A lot of these kids are at second class overseas clubs slogging away in junior teams and propped up with money from the tax payers and well off parents. Their main goal is not to play in HAL and they will play for any country they can if a half decent offer comes along.

        As for the coaches etc. well it’s a highly paid overseas junket where results will not matter. We will get the old BS line about experience.

        The amount of money we waste on these junkets could easily help HAL through it’s current state of affairs. The standard of HAL is quite good but we need the money from the OS junkets to get the message out – MARKETING. Taking into account that most of the media has bought into other codes we will have to pay to promote our game.

        • January 1st 2018 @ 11:37am
          Chopper said | January 1st 2018 @ 11:37am | ! Report

          It’s not hard to see where the money goes with these expensive overseas tournaments. Accommodation, transport (both air and land), coaching, medical, food and dietary requirements and at the end of it I believe there are players selected that will be too old for our Olyroos.
          This is TV money from our A League that is being stolen to fund wasteful idealism.

          • Roar Guru

            January 1st 2018 @ 11:51am
            Cousin Claudio said | January 1st 2018 @ 11:51am | ! Report

            Call the police now!
            The FFA is stealing money from club owners and the poor hungry children of western Sydney.
            What a disgrace!

            • January 1st 2018 @ 12:00pm
              LuckyEddie said | January 1st 2018 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

              Better keep that Doctors appointment, new meds may help. But seriously we are doing our best and putting forward pretty logical points of view so either join in in good faith or watch Peppe Pig.

              • January 1st 2018 @ 12:48pm
                Kangajets said | January 1st 2018 @ 12:48pm | ! Report


                The new meds comment again

                It’s 2018

                U need a new joke .

        • January 1st 2018 @ 12:10pm
          Lionheart said | January 1st 2018 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

          But isn’t this an Olympic qualifier? That’s not an irrelevant competition if it’s a path to the Olympics.
          I’m sure England are U17 WC holders, and U23. They’ve put a big effort into their youth, time will tell in a couple of years if it is worth it. For sure it works for Germany.

          • January 1st 2018 @ 12:21pm
            Waz said | January 1st 2018 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

            What’s the salary cap like in England though? Are they restricted to 23 players maximum in a squad as well? And how many age-rep players are regularly turning out for EPL teams? And do the European qualifiers take place mid season as well?

            The FFA just need to be more sympathetic here – of the 15 selected only 4 or 5 (like Izzo and Da Silva) are an issue; if Australia hasn’t got a handful of backup players to cover those we don’t deserve to qualify.

            Qualifying for the olympics while damaging the HAL is not acceptable, but the ffa thinks it is hence football in this country is a mess – the ffa just don’t get football.

            • January 1st 2018 @ 1:00pm
              Lionheart said | January 1st 2018 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

              I’m with you Waz, and Nemesis fact below re Olympics adds more weight to your argument.
              I heard while watching a game in England that more English youth get a start in the Bundesliga these days, than the EPL. The cross over of coaches probably helps, but also apparently English youth are held in quite high regard through exposure at international tournaments like youth WCs and Euros.

          • January 1st 2018 @ 12:23pm
            Nemesis said | January 1st 2018 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

            This version of the u23 AFC Championship is not the Qualifying Tournament for Tokyo 2020. The u23 Champs in Jan 2020 will serve as the Olympic Qualifiers.

            • January 1st 2018 @ 12:55pm
              Lionheart said | January 1st 2018 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

              thanks Nemesis

        • January 1st 2018 @ 5:03pm
          Footoverhand said | January 1st 2018 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

          There is no U17’s.
          England for the U16’s and 18’s.

    , ,