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A Lesson to be Learned: Ange Postecoglou wins J-League Title

On Saturday, former Socceroos head coach Ange Postecoglou completed the amazing feat of taking the Yokohama F.Marinos to the mountaintop of Japanese football.

The 54-year-old, who also coached the Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory, hasn’t had it all his own way in Yokohama.

After a tough 2018 campaign which saw his side finish 12th, the club backed him in to turn it around this season.

He has delivered in spades and following a comprehensive 3-0 win over FC Tokyo, he took Yokohama to an unlikely fourth J-League title.

It is a great story of redemption and perseverance from a man who has had his fair share of doubters over the years.

Postecoglou was responsible for our 2014 World Cup campaign, our qualification for the 2018 tournament and the infamous 2015 Asian Cup success.

Related Articles: Ange Postecoglou’s trail blazing J-League success finally silences the critics

We, as football fans, can very easily forget the good in which has come from coaches and players alike in their pasts.

Ange was thrown straight out of the frying pan at the Victory and into a white-hot fire as Socceroos coach, tasked with a near impossible feat of qualifying for the round of 16 against Chile, Spain and the Netherlands.

The Dutch were inches away from reaching the Final, falling short in a penalty shootout against eventual runners-up Argentina. Spain were the defending champions at the time and despite not reaching the knockout stage, were still a very formidable team.

Chile, perhaps deemed our easiest opponent at the time, were no slouches either. They defeated Spain 2-0 in the group stage and in the coming years, won back-to-back Copa America titles.

When your ‘easiest’ opponent was capable of outstanding achievements such as that, the job of Australia’s head coach was anything but enviable.

For the most part, he did a fine job making us competitive against some of the best in the world, despite three losses.

His finest hour came during our Asian Cup triumph against South Korea. Being the hosts of the tournament, Australia was expected to perform well and maybe even win the entire competition.

That kind of expectation brings about a lot of pressure. Ange coached his boys to perfection, showing his prowess as a manager and he led the Socceroos to a deserved trophy.

But the following few years began to take its toll on Postecoglou, with his resignation coming only a few weeks after leading the Socceroos to a fourth successive World Cup campaign.

In his press conference, Postecoglou spoke of the pressure that came with being an international coach and how it had “taken a toll both personally and professionally”.

Postecoglou was announced as coach of Yokohama one month later.

He reportedly received offers to coach Greece’s national side but instead opted to extend his contract in Japan, with hopes of surging up the table.

As we now know, he did more than just that.

Following his incredible title-winning season at Yokohama, Postecoglou’s name has been thrown into the hat for managerial opportunities in Europe.

Rumours are circling that he will take a job somewhere in Europe, with some of the biggest teams in the continent reportedly considering him.

All of his success following his departure as Socceroos coach goes to show something.

Ange Postecoglou was extremely underappreciated as head coach of our national team.

He faced enough criticism during his tenure to last a lifetime and it came from all angles.

Former players and fans were consistently on his back when things slightly went awry, with little-to-no margin for error as far as some were concerned.

In his athletesvoice.com.au column back in June of 2018, he spoke of how he wanted more out of us as a footballing nation.

He wasn’t going to settle for the Socceroos forever being, what he described as “battlers”. In his eyes, we weren’t going down without a fight.

This was resembled in the way he coached during the 2014 World Cup.

“Let’s now stand up and show that we could conquer that last bastion of our sport.” His own words.
He also claimed that many of those close to him at the FFA lost faith in him for his aggressive and ‘go down swinging’ style of play, believing this to be the catalyst for his eventual departure.
Now, following his successful ventures elsewhere and our forgetful 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup campaigns, his words need to be heeded now more than ever.
Perhaps he was right on the money, that we often settle for ‘giving it our best’ or ‘being that one step below the best’.
We should all take notes from him because, after all, he could be head coach of a top team in Europe not long from now.

 

Caelum Ferrarese is a Senior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on micro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions at grassroots level.

AFC reveals logo for the 2023 Asian Cup tournament

Asian Cup

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC), together with the Local Organising Committee (LOC), have confirmed the logo for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.

The logo was revealed via a dazzling and immersive display that showcased the vibrant new design through projection mapping and Augmented Reality, as well as being projected on select iconic buildings across Shanghai’s skyline.

The launch, which was staged at the competition’s first completed stadium – Shanghai Pudong Football Stadium – also revealed the Host City logos in the first on-ground milestone event of the tournament, which will be held from June 16 to July 16, 2023.

The 18th edition of the tournament will see the Socceroos hoping to improve on their quarter-final loss to the United Arab Emirates in 2019.

In a special video message presented during the event, the AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa made the following statement:

“Over the years, each host nation has left a significant mark on Asian football, and we know that China PR will stage our greatest ever tournament in 2023.

“The AFC is pleased to mark our latest milestones and, on behalf of the Asian football family, I would like to congratulate the Local Organising Committee and the Venue Organising Committees of the 10 host cities for their commitment and efforts.

“The LOC continues to make great progress with the preparations to stage a memorable event, and I wish the Chinese Football Association, the LOC, the VOCs and all our stakeholders the very best of success in staging a truly world-class event.”

The 10 dynamic beams in the logo, which emanate from the bottom to form the image of the sun rising from the East, symbolise all the host cities of the AFC Asian Cup China 2023™ – underlining the ever-growing scale and future legacy of the tournament, which will be held in 10 different cities in one nation for the first time in Asian football history.

The process of localising the design and concept, in line with the master brands, was further influenced by the LOC’s proposal to embody ‘Light’ as a symbol and beacon of hope to overcome adversity, particularly pertinent during these challenging times and aptly emphasising the unifying force of Asia’s flagship men’s tournament in rallying together passionate fans and teams from the world’s most diverse continent.

Is the A-League prepared for sportswashing?

With Premier League clubs being used to rehabilitate reputations for foreign entities, could the same happen in the A-League?

This month, Newcastle United became the richest club in world football – due solely to majority ownership by the Saudi Arabian Foreign Wealth Fund. With Premier League clubs being used to rehabilitate reputations for foreign entities, could the same happen in the A-League?

World football has a problem with ‘sportswashing’ – which the Macmillan dictionary defines as “when a corrupt or tyrannical regime uses sport to enhance its reputation” – as exemplified by the purchase of Newcastle United by the investment arm of the Saudi Arabian government.

This same government assassinated journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the Turkish consul in 2019, and now they have been allowed to purchase a football club in the world’s most-watched sporting league to rehabilitate their reputation on the world stage.

The World Cup in Qatar might be the biggest sportswashing event of all. The host nation of the 2022 tournament has a horrid reputation with human rights abuse, and over 6,500 migrant workers have died in the country since the World Cup was announced, with the total number likely significantly higher.

Countries like Australia will have no qualms sending their national teams – helping legitimise Qatar on the world stage and sportswashing away the human rights abuse and death toll that the event has created.

Australian football – and the A-League – will face a reckoning with sportswashing in the future, the question is how can it be combated?

Australian football has fought its fights against possibly malicious owners, both domestically and foreign. Clive Palmer and Nathan Tinkler promised the world, but left the Gold Coast without a club – and the Newcastle Jets penniless respectively.

Clive Palmer left Gold Coast United in ruin.

Foreign owners have also done their damage. On January 4, 2021, Martin Lee’s ownership of the Jets was terminated after he failed to inject any money into the club since October 2019, while also failing to pay any of the club’s debts.

ABC’s Four Corners revealed a director – Joko Driyono – for the company that owns the Brisbane Roar with the Bakrie family – was jailed for 18 months for match-fixing Indonesian football matches.

According to Indonesian business records, he remains the president director of Pelita Jaya Cronus, the holding company for Brisbane Roar.

Joko Driyono, director of Brisbane Roar’s holding company, spent 18 months in jail for match-fixing.

Does the ownership model of the A-League create accountability for owners, and do Australia’s corporate regulators do enough to ensure that malicious owners can’t drive clubs into the ground for personal profit or gain?

Take the Martin Lee example. Under the current franchise model of the A-League, he has no personal liability for the debt accrued by his ownership, and faced no repercussions for running the club into the ground before the A-League took back the license.

Former Newcastle Jets owner Martin Lee was forced to hand back the club’s license.

He simply abandoned the club after it was no longer of use to his business interests in Australia, and returned to his home country.

The A-League must avoid this as an example, while also ensuring that promises of rich domestic benefactors are balanced against the likelihood that it could be too good to be true.

The current franchise model does have its advantages, in regards to the Australian Professional Leagues having the power to take back the license of a runaway club like in the case of Clive Palmer’s Gold Coast United, or when an owner fails to inject money like Martin Lee.

Currently, the vast majority of NPL clubs are run by a board of directors who are personally liable if funds go missing, or the club goes into severe debt.

Melbourne Victory is the only publicly listed company in the A-League, and that ownership model brings responsibility to shareholders and liability for directors.

Foreign investment at the A-League is at an all-time high, with five of the 12 clubs being either foreign-owned or controlled.

One club, Adelaide United, has its ownership completely hidden from the public. The Australian footballing community currently has no idea who finances the only professional club in South Australia.

A transparent fit and fairness test must be implemented for A-League ownership, one that keeps potential malicious actors away from the game, while protecting fans and clubs.

One way to achieve this would be to ask corporate regulators to take a more hands-on approach with A-League entities during the purchasing of a license.

The downside of this approach would be that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is capable of auditing companies’ finances, but foreign entities like Martin Lee’s businesses and Pelita Jaya Cronus can easily circumvent scrutiny.

Personal liability for owners and directors would force them to create sustainable businesses. While it might scare away some bad investors, those with good intentions will embrace the concept of a more stable A-League.

Another way to combat sportswashing would be to introduce the truly membership-based model championed by clubs in Germany.

The 50+1 model means that the majority of the club must be owned by local fans of the clubs, and if this was pursued in the A-League it would grant huge protections against owners who don’t act in the best intentions for the club long-term.

The Australian Professional Leagues need to ensure that those who want to invest in Australian football are doing so for the right reasons, instead of purely personal gain.

A true fit and fairness test, one that examines whether the owner is financially, ethically, and morally capable of owning an A-League team (or second division team) with the utmost accountability will be one of the best investment’s the APL can make for Australian football.

Without it, it will be a wild wasteland of Palmers, Tinklers, and Lees for years to come.

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