The A-League should demand more from its foreign players and coaches
Having played overseas for 15 years, I experienced first-hand the expectations and enormous pressure placed on foreign players and coaches to perform.
”You must be better, not as good, better, otherwise we-ll just use one of our own” was the message that was drummed into my ears by club managers and coaches.
These days, getting in as a young foreign player is extremely difficult, particularly in Germany, a country that has come on in leaps and bounds with its junior development. The Germans are protecting their own, protecting their future.
Being better than what they have will get you the initial break, but if you do not keep convincing the powers that be that you are actually better, it-s a simple “Danke, auf wiedersehen”, which is what many of our Australian boys have experienced in recent years in Germany.
We here in Australia should be applying the same rules, not only to protect our own talent, but to get the best out of the foreigners playing here.
As show in the recent failure of our U17s and U20s, we need to be giving even more of our youngsters a pathway to play first-team football in the A-League, which means having less second-rate foreign players blocking that pathway.
Yes, we have had some good foreign players that have lit up the A-League, but the failures and generally average players far outnumber the ones that have succeeded. Either the quality has not been good enough or players with quality have come here with a holiday mentality, a mentality that was never going to allow success to take place.
So what are the expectations of foreign players and coaches in the A-League? No disrespect to John van -t Schip, but as a highly paid foreign coach, if he was in most countries in Europe and finished in the bottom half of the league, he would have been torn to shreds in the media, then given a one way ticket out of there.
Being a foreign coach and the highest-paid in the A-League should carry expectations of good football, and results are compulsory and have to be demanded and met. The A-League needs more of the “If you don-t produce, there-s the exit door” mentality.
Pressure to perform is positive in sport. Without it, athletes and coaches don-t get the best out of themselves. In Melbourne Heart-s case, using the excuse that it-s only the first year doesn-t make things better. The first year was good enough for the coach to be the highest paid, so it should be good enough to get results as well.
This season will be a huge test for John van -t Schip and Rini Coolen; good football and results, or else it-s a failed exercise. Viteslav Lavicka will be under huge pressure as well after last season, though, unlike the two Dutchmen, Lavicka has a title to his name, but that bonus is pretty much used up now.
But does the foreign legion here feel genuine pressure to perform? A-League clubs need to make that message clear, so it-s known beforehand that it-s not good enough to be on the same level as the homegrown products. It-s a pre-requisite to outperform what we already have here. You-re here to produce on the park, not for the great lifestyle.
Australia is seen as a friendly country with a friendly environment where you can ply your trade in peace, all good and well. But sport has different rules and a different mechanism in place. It-s a ruthless business, and so it should be. It is in Europe, it is in South America - it shouldn-t be any different here.
I happened to be on the same flight as Thomas Broich when he first arrived in Australia and spoke to him as we were departing the airport. He asked about the A-league, I said “Thomas, don-t think it-ll be a stroll in the park. Just show everyone that you-re better than what we have in the league and your job is done”. He replied “I plan to…and I will”.
He has done that with flying colours and has been a huge boost to the competition as a player. Yes, he has ability, but more importantly he came here with the right mentality. Broich has produced the best football from any foreigner that we-ve had in the A-League, including Dwight Yorke. He doesn-t have the off-field circus that Yorke brought with him, but it-s the on-field endeavours that ultimately set him apart from the rest.
Dear A-League - please, more imports with the quality of Thomas Broich.