The popularity & professionalism of football in Asia is slowly growing, but remains some way off. Australia continue to be a benchmark for others in the confederation to follow. Jonathan Northall will regularly update Outside of the Boot readers with the football scene in the country, as part of the regular “A-League of Their Own” series.
The reigning champions, Brisbane Roar, have decided to discard their club crest for the coming season. The now mandatory shirt change is accompanied by change in supplier to Umbro from Puma. It is the decision to ‘rebrand’ Roar with a “club crest that highlights the elements of a traditional football club while maintaining our strong identity” that has polarized opinion. The new badge has a full body which is inexplicably justified by Brisbane’s Managing Director Sean Dobson; “the iconic lion has been retained in the form of a full body to reflect the importance of a wider club community that includes members, fans, the city of Brisbane and the state of Queensland – not just the team”. Detractors of the change charge the club with a lack of interaction with fans. Whether it is a designer’s folly or not, Brisbane will have a ‘lion rampant’ on their chest in 2014/15. (Quotes from Four Four Two)
Whilst Brisbane have changed their shirts, National Premier League team Melbourne Knights are up in arms over their change which was blocked by Football Federation Australia (FFA). The Knights had new shirts designed for their recent FFA Cup game against Olympic FC but the design fell foul of the FFA’s National Club Identity Policy (NCIP). The policy is designed to “promote football as Australia’s most inclusive, accessible and multicultural sport.” However, it’s the multicultural element of the shirt that seems to have been the problem. Melbourne Knights have a huge Croatian influence and sponsorship from Melbourne Croatia Soccer Club has breached the new policy. The Melbourne Knights are taking this one as far as they can, including the Human Rights Commission, so this one won’t blow over.
On the subject of ‘blowing over’ or lack of it, Western Sydney Wanderers’ midweek Asian Champions League (ACL) quarter-final saw them take a 1-0 advantage but the bad tempered encounter will spill over into next week’s second leg. Guangzhou Evergrande coach Marcello Lippi tried to get physical with WSW’s Brazilian playmaker Vitor Saba after the game. Lippi felt that Saba, and other Wanderers players, got away with murder. Not content with trying to get physical with the opposition, referee Mohammed Abdulla Hassan Mohamed was also targeted by the Lippi crosshairs. A warm welcome can be expected for Tony Popovic and his Wanderers team as they play the second leg next week in the 58,500 seat Tianhe Stadium.
Although WSW are still in the ACL, the same can’t be said of their participation in the inaugural FFA Cup. This year sees the first domestic national football competition since 1968. The 10 A-League teams have been joined by 22 qualifiers from all tiers of football. Before the tournament proper kicked off, two teams from the fourth tier qualified for the ‘Round of 32’. One of these, South Springvale pulled off a giant killing and await their next opponents. However, it was Adelaide City beating WSW that has made the headlines. A wonderful solo goal from a teenager won the game for Adelaide City to knock out their illustrious opponents. Designed to replicate the English FA Cup, the tournament has lived up to this goal so far. One round does not make a tournament but it is so far so good.
What isn’t so good is the TV coverage of the tournament. Despite covering a game live and highlights of three other matches, Fox Sports have been conspicuous in their absence for the rest of the games. Fox Sports and the FFA kept to their contractual obligations on coverage despite fans taking to social media to encourage, berate and cajole in desperation for more coverage. In order to meet demand, teams have streamed games on the internet so fans can see games. This in itself has been problematic at times with questionable quality of picture and even more questionable commentary. However, the FFA should take a leaf out of the books of clubs ‘having a go’ to generate interest in a fledgling tournament.
TV coverage has also made the news this week when the A-League announced that any expansion of the league would be linked to a new TV deal. This effectively means that it will be 2017, at least, before any new clubs join. It is worth comparing Australia to the USA’s MLS that it going through a period of expansion of franchises. Perhaps the thirst for football in the USA is in excess to Australia but the FFA Cup suggests that this may not be the case. Obviously, the populations are very different but the demand and quality, as evidenced by teams competing in the FFA Cup, is there.
WSW coach Tony Popovic is up to his anti-hirsute antics once again. Having reputation for having his players clean shaven (last season, Mark Bridge and Nikolai Topor-Stanley were made to shave by Popovic), the bearded Vitor Saba has managed to beat the chop for now. A deal has been struck between player and coach but Saba, who could easily join a ZZ Top tribute band, has to perform on the pitch to keep the beard. After the run in with Marcelo Lippi, Saba has already had one close shave.
Written by Jonathan Northall