Saturday, February 20, 2010

Verbeek vs the A-League

It seems the BBC have - finally! - caught on to the story that has been running for some time in Australia regarding national team boss Pim Verbeek and his battle with the A-League.

There's not a lot new in here but for those who have watched the A-League, it's difficult to argue with the Dutchman's assessment. Workmanlike is probably the best way to describe the standard in the domestic league in Australia and the lack of success for the country's clubs when they have played in the AFC Champions League has only served to underline that.

Adelaide United's run to the final of the ACL in 2008 was something of an anomaly and both before and since there has been little to shout about at continental level for the Australians.

League football in Australia has long lacked the finesse and technical quality that exists in the likes of Japan, South Korea or even in the places such as Thailand, Indonesia or Vietnam, but the A-League does have a significant amount of potential. It could and should be operating as a talent incubator for not only the best young up-and-coming players from Australia, but from around the region. And while some clubs - most notably Melbourne Victory - have dipped into the talent pool in South East Asia, more could be done that would be mutually beneficial in both the mid and long term.

Of course, that doesn't really concern Verbeek who will either leave after the World Cup or possibly continue until the Asian Cup finals in Qatar early next year (he's not commented yet on his future but given there's little over six months between the two competitions it is feasible he will stay until Jan 2011). Understandably he just wants his best players playing at the top of their game so they're fit and sharp for the kick off in South Africa. That's not likely to happen if they're playing in the A-League.

When Verbeek has been forced to pick squads made up exclusively of A-League players for Asian Cup qualifiers, the Socceroos have struggled. Take, for example, their loss at home to Kuwait last year. Verbeek's concerns are completely justified, perhaps his only failing is that he could be more diplomatic in how he has expressed his opinion.

But that's not Verbeek. If he's anything, he's a straight talker and if you don't like what he has to say then that's your problem. And for many within the A-League, that's the biggest issue of all.

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