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Opinion

Markus Babbel-ing about the A-League shows the danger of foreign coaches

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Expert
22nd January, 2020
17

No-one can blame Markus Babbel for saying the A-League is nowhere near the Bundesliga’s level.

However, the former Western Sydney Wanderers coach’s comments to German media following his sacking demonstrate why A-League clubs need to tread carefully when making foreign appointments.

Coaches from football-mad nations with top-flight divisions are almost always going to come Down Under looking down their nose at the competition and players.

Babbel’s tenure at the Wanderers was littered with examples of thinking, at some subconscious level, that Australian football is beneath him.

Markus Babbel

(Nigel Owen/Action Plus via Getty Images)

And maybe it is. His pedigree as a player speaks for itself. He has played and been involved at the highest level for much of his career.

There is no denying that coming to Australia was a step down. But no-one held a gun to Babbel’s head. He arrived of his own volition. He knew – or at least you’d hope he knew – what he was getting into.

You don’t move halfway across the world to coach in a competition without some due diligence.

He criticised his players for not being good enough. He criticised referees for not being good enough. In general there was a pervasive feeling that Babbel’s tenure was destined to fail because of elements out of his control.

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Of course the league does not help itself in this respect with some of its ridiculous rules and regulations. Salary caps and no transfers, for instance, must make coaching particularly difficult for those coming from overseas.

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If you have made a career for yourself at the highest level and almost exclusively been surrounded by world-class and elite players, then you would demand more from players when you move to a place where the football isn’t as good.

You’re going to question why players aren’t just better at the sport in which they have become a professional.

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But that’s not the type of coach we need in Australia, and it’s why the Wanderers and indeed every club needs to tread carefully when looking at international coaches.

Clubs need to delve deeper into the coaches they are getting into bed with.

Will they be comfortable working within the league’s constraints? How do they cope in environments where the technical quality is perhaps not as high as they are used to?

Do they nurture their players? Do they have a track record of improving teams they inherit?

Babbel’s almost instant and prolonged frustration with the elements of the A-League he didn’t like suggest not too many of these questions were properly asked.

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None of this is to say Babbel is a bad person or a bad coach.

His honesty in many ways is refreshing.

For the most part his criticisms probably come from a good place. No doubt he wanted his team and his players to perform better than they did.

The problem was he couldn’t help his team and his individual players bridge the gap between where they were and where he wanted them to be.