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Focus on developing local talent and getting marquees: Branko Culina on football in Australia

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Roar Guru
11th February, 2022

Former Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets coach Branko Culina has urged Australian football authorities to obtain marquee players, but stressed the importance of also developing our own youth.

The APL have flagged signing foreign marquee players for both the A-League Men and Women as a priority. The new $140-million equity deal signed with Silver Lake last year leaves the APL with a healthy bank balance and this could provide the basis for this healthy investment.

At present clubs can have up to five foreign players on their books. However, very few A-League clubs actually have high profile players that would fit the marquee bill.

Perth Glory signed former Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and England star Daniel Sturridge for this season, but he has had little game time. Melbourne Victory signed Keisuke Honda two seasons ago.

In women’s football, the Western Sydney Wanderers signed Lyn Williams, Kristen Hamilton and Denise O’Sullivan two seasons ago while Melbourne Victory signed Williams on a guest deal this season.

It is understood the APL will apply to Football Australia to have the quota of five foreign visa-players to be amended to have one of them at least come from Asia or the Middle East. With Australia’s Asian community making up a significant proportion of the grassroots football community, the idea behind this is to engage them to be fans of the A-Leagues.


Culina, who also coached Melbourne Knights, Sydney United, Canberra Cosmos and Sydney Olympic in the old NSL believes it will be hard to attract top quality international marquees, many of whom go to Asia (namely India or China) or the Middle East for a big payday.

“The problem is that the top tier players in Asia and Middle East are earning more money than they would in Australia therefore it would be difficult to attract the very best to the A-League,” said Culina.

“We need quality marquee players spread across all clubs, to lift the standard and profile of the league.”

Culina, whose son Jason was part of the Golden Generation of Socceroos, also stressed the importance of developing our younger Australian footballers.

“Equally important is to develop local talent as we did during the NSL days when we had many youngsters coming through the clubs which also ensured stronger National Teams,” he said.

“We must strive to produce players who will be capable of playing for AC Milan,Borussia Dortmund. Ajax Amsterdam, Liverpool , Leeds Utd, Everton etc rather than the lower grades of UK, Denmark, Austria and so on.”

Culina’s thoughts correlate with Football Australia’s XI Principles for the Future. Principle III of this framework is about creating a “thriving football ecosystem driven by a modern domestic transfer system.”

This system is expected to flow through to the international transfer market, which can be very lucrative and bring in much needed funds into Australian football.

Daniel Sturridge

Does Aussie football focus too much on big names? (Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

To help achieve this, Culina urged FA and A-League clubs to take advantage of the intellectual property and knowledge available from ex Socceroos and Matildas who have had success on the world stage.

“Australian Football has not taken advantage of the many ex-players who could be contributing to the development of our youth system. Instead we have too many ordinary coaches who lack knowledge and experience to create the extraordinary players,” he said.

A number of our Golden Generation not only played in the top European leagues, many captained their teams. Josip Skoko won a title with Genk in Belgium as skipper. The likes of Lucas Neill, Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, John Aloisi and Vince Grella also captained at club level in top tier European football.

In women’s football, players like Alison Forman, Julie Murray, Joey Peters and Heather Garriock had success overseas.

Peters was part of the Starting XI, a working group whose role was to act in an advisory capacity on technical and development matters, however this group has recently been disbanded. Skoko and Viduka were also part of this group.

Garriock was appointed to the FA Board in September last year, and by all accounts is already making moves to enhance the development of our future stars.


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