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Football nurseries, the future of the A-League?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

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By Paul Frederickson

At the moment, it could be argued that, the A-League is the fourth best football competition in Australia. That argument though, in its entirety, is for another column.

The reason that I have started this article with that point is that A-League teams may never attract the best Australian players to our competition as well as overseas players. What we can do as a competition is foster an exciting group of youth players through the A-League ranks. But will that mean that A-League clubs become a nursery for overseas clubs and competitions? If so, does that concern you as a football supporter?

The A-League has already seen a fine generation of young players grace the fields who have attracted overseas interest and seen some of them take up contracts with larger overseas clubs. These players include, Michael Langerak, Tommy Oar, Adam Sarota, Dario Vidosic, Mustafa Amini, Robbie Kruse to name just a few. As a football supporter I was originally really excited to see the mature, star players come back to the competition such as ‘all night’ Dwight Yorke. As the competition has grown and players have come and gone I am more excited about seeing future stars emerge as opposed to waiting for players to come back and play in Australia.
This is a positive for the competition and something that I hope that the FFA will promote. A ‘young guns’ campaign would be an example, highlighting the skills, pace and future of Australian football. Children can see their favourite players start in the A-League and progress to the world stage. Junior players and children can aspire to follow similar paths.

There is one danger to these aspirations, that Australian teams become nurseries for bigger clubs and nations. Whilst some may see this as the perfect leaping board for players and the A-League itself it will not promote the A-League to be any less than the fourth best football competition in the land. The other three codes, AFL, NRL and Super Rugby have the majority of their best players playing in this country; the same cannot be said of the A-League. This would be more evident if the clubs are drained of their best young talent on a yearly basis.
Could we see a club in Australia set up as a pure footballing nursery where players are developed at a young age and then sold at a profit to overseas clubs? Yes, but I would hope that they would not be part of the A-League structure. To explore this concept further, we need to look no further than the wonderful footballing culture that is Brazilian football.
Brazil has teams dedicated to producing talented youngsters who go through the club’s academy with the aim of being sold to other clubs at a profit. More a football factory than a nursery the players are selected with the aim of profit over a team ethos. The academies play against visiting teams to showcase the player’s talents rather than to win titles. These academies enter cup style competitions but in most cases do not part of any official season long competitions. The question is, are these players ready for club environments or commodities who will expect to move from club to club for profits?

I want the A-League to be the best competition possible. I want the players to develop and be the best players then can be whilst playing at the highest level that they can achieve. Now that is not too much to ask, is it?

What do you think?
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Jjerg said...

As a foreign fan of the A-League I love the way it has developed. Like the MLS is the US, it has become a solid second tier league with a solid economic foundation. Yes it plays second and third fiddle to other excellent sports, but those sports are unique to that country. Like Baseball or American footy, Aussie rules and rugby are Australian. Yes the Irish have a similar code and rugby is popular in other Anglo centric countries, but nothing is like the Aussie rules system with popular state leagues(like the American baseball system) and rugby has been perfected down under.(union in NZ and league in Australia).
This is a huge ask for soccer to compete with. Instead of trying to defeat these leagues, the A-League has learned to coexist and developed into a top 25 global league.
Maybe in a decade or so the A-League could become a top10 league and attract the young Argentinian or in their peak Frenchman but for now I enjoy watching the young Aussie begin and maybe end a fine career in Australia and in between represent their countries sporting talent across Europe's top leagues.

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