Australian Football’s World Cup hangover has extended to the domestic scene with the third season of the A-League yet to really kick into gear.
The good will towards football by a usually sceptical media generated by the German adventure in 2006 is already being tested with a sluggish start to the campaign that has produced just 29 goals from the 16 fixtures played. There have also been nine draws, four of which have been scoreless affairs.
While long time football fanatics would see those figures as unremarkable and a reflection of a tight, tough and competitive league, the view might be different from “new football” HQ at the FFA.
The FFA and its PR machine have worked hard to re-brand the sport as a high intensity, action packed experience with the ball constantly bulging the old onion bag. Its cutting edge TV ads promise a kind of bio-robotic clash of Playstation supermen scoring for fun.
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New football fans hoping for anything resembling such high-octane action might be a bit puzzled at the moment. Nil all draws aren’t going to keep them coming back through the turnstiles.
Football in this country doesn’t have much margin for error when it comes to converting the sceptical. With AFL, NRL, union and cricket competing for the disposable income of the sports loving public, the A-League needs a hero or two, the odd villain and a enmity to stoke the fires of regional rivalry.
Last season it came in the form of Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory and the theatrics of Kevin Muscat and John Kosmina. With the dynamic Brazilian Fred having left Victory to play in the United States and the Johnny Warren Medal winner Nicky Carle taking his opportunity to ply his trade in Turkey, the two outstanding players from last season are no longer part of the action.
Central Coast are setting the standard and giving the League the boost it needs. Unbeaten in four games and top of the table they could be the story of the year. With Nick Mrdja receiving a call up to the Socceroos for his three goals from three starts this year, the injury plagued striker is poised to be this year’s break out player.
Sydney FC’s love affair with big names continues to be mixed blessing with Brazilian legend Juninho having started just two games and yet to score. Sydney are winless and having lost twice already, Branco Cullina, the third coach in the seasons of the A-League, might already be feeling the heat.
All Australian football fans will watch Adelaide United closely this season as young Olyroos Nathan Burns, Kristian Sarkies and Bruce Djite are expected to be the foundation of future Socceroos campaigns. Like Sydney, United are yet to win a game this season and the pressure is mounting for Aurelio Vidmar.
As it is for Victory’s Ernie Merrick. Last year’s Champions have four draws from four starts and have scored just three goals in all games. Twenty seven thousand turned out in Melbourne for the scoreless draw against the Mariners on Sunday. If the goal drought continues it will be interesting to see if they keep coming back.