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A-League Of Their Own: Medicals, Mouths and Matildas

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.

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Australia’s player union, the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), have issued their report on injury levels from the previous season and it shows a huge increase from the previous season. In response, the PFA has announced that it will inspect facilities of all of the A-League clubs. This is a bold statement to clubs that more than just infers that they are getting it wrong. In 2011-12, a Minimum Medical Standard was introduced for all clubs to achieve but the head of the PFA has said that he feels they need revising. For example, the report shows that Western Sydney Wanderers went from 11 players injured to 17 in 2013-14. And unlike in other industries, those in the world of sports aren’t allowed to use things like Blessed CBD oil to help them through the recovery, as even though medical marijuana has become more and more available and accepted it is not in sports. However, WSW had their maiden Asian Champions League campaign in 2013-14. Correlation between the two? I can’t help but wonder what effect the FFA Cup, which will add to the number of games played, will have on these numbers too.

Veteran Socceroos midfielder Mark Bresciano has announced that he would like to return to the A-League after his current spell ends in Qatar. Although the midfielder is 34, A-League sides will still want his quality as he showed in the 2-0 defeat to Belgium last week. It’s not certain that the move will happen, Bresciano has said that he will see how his body holds up but it must be tempting for the player to finish off his career back home. Perhaps a thirty-something midfielder, no matter how well he’s playing, must be an injury risk and perhaps the PFA inspections might make the move less attractive because of the player’s age? One to keep an eye on over the coming months.

The start of the round of 16 for the FFA Cup is just a week away and the mind games are starting already. The draw has presented a tasty Sydney derby as National Premier League (NPL) team Sydney United 58 FC host A-League ‘big boys’ Sydney United at their Edensor Park stadium. Fox Sports have quite rightly selected this game for TV coverage (23rd September) and it will be a cracker. Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold has been doing a “Jose Mourinho” but counterpart Mark Rudan hasn’t taken the bait. The shock team of the last round, South Springvale, have been handed a tough away game at NPL Queensland’s Palm Beach Sharks. The minnows are really in deep water against the Sharks and will do well to see off their opponents.

Not content with mind games against opponents, Arnold has targeted “desperate” free agents from Europe to fill his last two import places on his squad. It does feel that the choice of words isn’t the most flattering way to start a relationship but ex-Premier League defender George McCartney is just one name linked to Sydney FC. Arnold has already seen his team impress in pre-season including taking home the Townsville Cup after beating the A-League champions Brisbane Roar. However, the coach wants some desperados to join his posse.

A ridiculous refereeing decision has robbed Western Sydney Wanderers of key player Tomi Juric for their first leg of the Asian Champions League semi-final. Juric slotted a penalty, a crucial away goal, in the second leg of the quarter-final against Guangzhou Evergrande and made a ‘shush’ gesture to the home fans. With stories of Evergrande fans banging on hotel doors of WSW players, shining laser pointers at them and making calls to hotel rooms at all hours, it was an instinctive release of tension and a rebuttal to intimidation. However, the referee showed no common sense and booked Juric, which resulted in a one-match suspension due to a card received earlier in the tournament.

It would be remiss of me not mention that the Women’s W-League starts at the weekend and the eight teams will be fiercely competing to win the competition in its seventh season. Australian players will be doubly eager to impress as the Women’s team (the Matildas) have qualified for the Women’s World Cup next year. Teams will also include some fine international talent such as Ballon d’Or winner Nadine Angerer who has re-signed for Brisbane. I’m looking forward to seeing some games and each week ABC TV will show one game live.

And finally..

Aussie Rules Football is described as ‘Australia’s Game’ but Western Sydney Wanderers’ success has put that into question. A report last week showed that western Sydney sports fans bought more season tickets for football (soccer) than the Rugby League and AFL (aussie rules) teams that share the locality. What is more impressive is that this is only WSW’s third season in existence. I guess it goes to show that football (the round ball variety) is a truly global game.

Written by Jonathan Northall

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