If I was to ask a fan of the A-League to say the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the name…
Moving to a direct rival used to be a cardinal sin in football, the vitriol from fans was more than enough to make players think twice about crossing that bridge.
For the players that did, repercussions were felt by the respective supporter bases
Who can forget Fiorentina fans hurling bricks and Molotov cocktails at Juventus fans due to Roberto Baggio; the pigs head being thrown from the crowd at Luis Figo when he moved from Barcelona to Real Madrid; or the Flares and coins reigning down on Niko Kranjcar after he left Dinamo Zagreb for Hadjuk Split?
However, in today’s football age where there is no loyalty and money talks, the idea of playing for an enemy is far more common – even in the A-League
The rivalry runs deep between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers, it would be almost unthinkable to play for the other club.
The Wanderers’ pursuit and capture of a talented Zac Sapsford from their cross-city rivals, will leave Sydney FC’s hierarchy and fans furious.
While there have been many youth players that moved between the two sides over the years, signing a talent as bright as Sapsford should be seen as not only a coup by the wanderers, but a statement of intent.
He is not the only talent in the Sky Blues NPL youth team, that the Wanderers are watching, with raids for other prospects expected – Calem Nieuwenhoff also set to be announced soon.
The bulk of Sapsford’s junior’s career was with Hakoah Sydney City East FC – where he consistently has scored goals.
He’s also spent a year overseas in England with Chester FC – as part of there under 18’s setup, before returning home to Australia and previous club Hakoah during the pandemic.
This current season Sapsford has been instrumental in the sky blues charge to the summit in the NSW NPL– contributing seven goals and nine assists in 12 matches.
Sapsford is extremely comfortable on the ball, equally adept at scoring and creating and has improved on holding the ball up with his back towards goal – There is also a very underrated, energetic work rate when out of possession.
Capable of playing anywhere across the front three, Sapsford’s best position looks to be as a centre forward – Which allows him to utilise his full repertoire of technical skills, honed by futsal.
Sapsford has represented Australia at under 17 level in futsal and joins the list of A League alumni like Tom Rogic, Daniel Arzani, Marco Tilio and his soon to be ex-team mate Joseph Calusic – in playing the indoor version of football.
Futsal is well known to improve decision making, dribbling and creativity – 3 traits that are severely lacking in Australian players.
While it has been a great stepping stone in Europe and South America for professional players including Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinidene Zidane & Lionel Messi – Futsal is still a foreign concept in Australia and seems forever to be debated; if it should be a part of the national football curriculum or not.
Only time will tell if Sapsford’s move to the west side of Sydney, will be the right one
The previous wanderer’s manager Carl Robinson, was under instructions to play more of the clubs talented youth from the academy – He never ended up completing this mandate and was relieved of his duties after a run of poor results
A much-needed change of the Wanderers’ hierarchy, has allowed the current coach Mark Rudan to wield a lot more power within the new football department.
Rudan has traditionally favoured more mature players rather than talented teenagers and it will be interesting to see how he incorporates Sapsford with the attacking jewel from within the wanderer’s academy, Alessandro Lopane – as well as powerhouse interstate recruit Kusini Yengi
Sapsford’s defection could add even more fuel, to the already burning fire – between these two Sydney club side enemies.