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An insight into the impact of the A-League’s marquee signings

Ever since the inaugural A-League season, clubs have been consistently on the lookout for marquee players. Players that are no longer in their primes, but are enough of a household name for fans to recognise.

It’s a simple, yet smart method of putting butts in seats and in most cases, genuinely adding to the quality of your side. It also puts the A-League on the map and helps to generate worldwide interest.

In the midst of rumours that Liverpool striker and Premier League star Daniel Sturridge could make a move Down Under this offseason, now’s as good a time as any have a look at the impact marquee players have made in the past.

It’s also a good opportunity to analyse whether the consistent use of such players has impacted on Australian football in a positive or negative manner.

We don’t need to look too far back to see who some of the biggest marquees were. Alessandro Del Piero, David Villa, Emile Heskey and most recently, Keisuke Honda.

These players amongst more are some of the best footballers their countries have produced, making their names in the biggest leagues in Europe. It’s no surprise that at least financially, they were a success in the A-League.

Del Piero, a World Cup winner and genuine legend of the game signed for Sydney in 2012. After over 500 appearances for the Bianconeri, he made the move to the Harbour City. Bear in mind that at the time, he turned down a move to Liverpool, one of the biggest clubs in Europe.

So it wasn’t as if his absolute best was behind him. He still had a lot to give.

He subsequent 24 goals from 48 games in the A-League goes a long way to proving that. He was still a star.

Emile Heskey joined the Newcastle Jets that same season and his impact, safe to say, left a little to be desired.

A solid first season was followed by a dismal second season, which saw him depart the club with a goal to game ratio twice that of Del Piero’s.

David Villa had the shortest stay of the four, managing four games at Melbourne City whilst out on loan from MLS club, New York City FC.

Despite his brief run, Villa garnered a following from all fans of Australian soccer, simply because he was still seen as a player in his prime. It was a real shame to have him leave so soon, but it will have done no harm to anyone or anything.

Finally, Keisuke Honda played at the Melbourne Victory this season and in short, he made a massive impact. One of Japan’s greatest ever, someone’s who’s travelled the world and been good wherever he’s been. Victory were lucky to have him.

But one has to think that with all these successful marquees, what’s the flip side of the coin?

Massimo Maccarone wasn’t the worst marquee in A-League history, but he was far from the best. He had been a modest striker at clubs like Empoli, Siena and Middlesborough.

However, as someone most fans won’t know, someone who was 37 when he arrived at the Brisbane Roar, some if not most may think that he, along with other marquees who had limited impacts, take away opportunities for youngsters.

In the past, we have seen numerous players who have been on A-League rosters move to NPL clubs across Australia, due to lack of opportunity.

One player we can pinpoint is current Avondale FC player Joey Katebian.

At just 23 years old, Katebian still has his best years ahead and for any A-League club, his ability and his age would present a great asset. But that’s not how the Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar saw it.

Katebian was forced to reevaluate after limited opportunities at the A-League clubs, with a mere five appearances combined from 2015-2017. He made the move to the NPL before the start of the 2018 season.

In 2015/2016, during his time at the Victory, Katebian was forced to compete with marquee players Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Gui Finkler. Whilst those two helped the Victory achieve good results in the league and abroad, Katebian didn’t seem to be in future plans for Kevin Muscat’s side.

It was much the same at the Roar. Katebian joined prior to the 16-17 season and was made to compete with seasoned attacker, Spaniard Manuel Arana.

Arana managed 18 games with no goals to his name, whilst Katebian was barely sighted.

Now we don’t know the full story behind why Joey wasn’t played too often by his A-League clubs, but it is fair to assume that the marquees were considered before him at just about every opportunity.

Now averaging a goal every two games and a proven talent at the level, A-League clubs should be looking at Katebian.

And he isn’t the only one who has been overlooked by A-League clubs in favour of marquees, despite their potential.

Jake Brimmer of Perth Glory is a great example of when prolonged gametime helps develop a young player into a pivotal member of a footballing side. In the case of Perth, he helped them make a Grand Final this season.

When done right, signing marquee players can do wonders for an organisation. But when done wrong, it can set the future of the club back several years.

Soccer is the most popular sport amongst youths in Australia. We should be giving them the most opportunities.

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

$1.5 Billion FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan Approved

FIFA

The Bureau of the FIFA Council has approved the FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan regulations which aim to financially support member associations during the pandemic.

$1.5 billion USD ($2.1 billion AUD), will be made available by the international governing body to assist the member associations and confederations.

Each member association will receive a $1 million USD universal solidarity grant. An extra $500,000 USD will be provided which can only be used for women’s football.

The six football confederations will also receive $2 million USD each, these grants will be received by the organisations by January 2021.

As a part of the plan member associations will also be able to apply for interest free loans of up to 35 per cent of their annual revenues. FIFA has set a maximum loan limit of five million dollars. Confederations will be able to apply for loan of up to four million dollars.

FIFA said that clear loan repayment conditions are laid out in the regulations along with strict compliance and audit requirements.

“This relief plan is a great example of football’s solidarity and commitment in such unprecedented times,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

“I would like to thank my colleagues of the Bureau of the Council for approving the decision to move forward with such an important initiative for the benefit of all member associations and confederations.”

With the funds provided FIFA believes that member associations will be able to restart competitions, re-hire staff and pay any administration or operating costs.

“Unfortunately, the resultant suspension of basic football activities in almost every country has led to enormous financial distress for member associations and their respective football structures,” FIFA said in the relief plan.

“FIFA quickly recognised the need and duty to implement a FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan aimed at alleviating this distress and ensuring the provision of financial support to assist with football’s resumption and protect the games future well-being across the globe.”

FIFA administrators created the plan earlier this year after consultation with the confederations. The plan was then approved by the FIFA Council on June 25.

New Zealand Football confirms 2020/21 season details

New Zealand Football has confirmed the details and starting dates of its national competitions for the 2020/21 season, during October and November.

New Zealand Football has confirmed the details and starting dates of its national competitions for the 2020/21 season.

The national men’s football league, the ISPS Handa Premiership will start in November, while the National Women’s League will commence from the weekend of October 31.

COVID-19 has also forced some structural changes to be made to both the men’s and women’s competitions.

In the ISPS Handa Premiership, the competition will feature eight club instead of the usual 10 teams. The South Island teams, Southern United, Tasman United and Canterbury United Dragons, will merge for the upcoming season. They will play under the Canterbury United Dragons name.

The competition will retain its usual format of a regular season with each team playing each other twice before a finals series including semi-finals and a grand final – the latter is expected to be held in March 2021.

Plans for a promotion and relegation framework have been postponed and will be reviewed before the 2021/22 season.

The National Women’s League will be played as a single round robin competition for this season. A grand final will be held on the weekend of December 19. The competition will feature all seven women’s teams.

“It has taken a lot of work with our clubs and federations to get to this stage but we are excited to now be able to confirm initial details of our national competitions for the upcoming season,” Daniel Farrow, General Manager of Football for New Zealand Football said in a statement.

“While Covid-19 and the knock-on effect of shifting community football dates has had an impact on the length of competitions and, in the case of the ISPS Handa Premiership, the number of teams able to take part, running men’s, women’s and futsal national league competitions this year was a key priority and we are very pleased to be able to make that happen.

“We also want to acknowledge the support of Sport NZ and our on-going partnership with Trillian Trust as key contributors to staging competitions this season.”

The 2019/20 ISPS Handa Premiership was called off early in March due to COVID-19. Auckland City, who were leading the competition at the time, were declared champions.

Queensland features an abundance of Matildas

New figures show that Queensland's female development has been incredibly successful in finding new talent, who have represented the Westfield Matildas.

New figures show that Queensland’s female development has been incredibly successful in finding talent, who have represented the Westfield Matildas.

As part of Football Queensland’s latest findings, 40 homegrown players have gone on to represent the Australian Women’s National Team at major senior and youth tournaments since July 2012.

Katrina Gorry, Mackenzie Arnold and Hayley Raso (pictured) are a few examples of local talents working their way up the ranks during the last eight years and will be key contributors in the next Women’s World Cup hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 2023.

Gorry, Arnold and Raso spent time at the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) before accomplishing themselves in the Westfield W-League and internationally.

Football Queensland and the QAS combined to launch a full-time training and playing program for upcoming talents in 2018.

“Our pathway is now the envy of every female footballer in the country,” Rae Dower said, a former Matilda and current Junior Matildas Head Coach.

“We’re fully committed to evolving the program and to helping as many female players in Queensland reach their full potential on and off the field through the creation of our high-performance environment.

“We’d love to help make dreams come true for Queensland players wanting to play for the Matildas in a home FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 and beyond.”

Football Federation Australia revealed more than 18,000 women and girls from Queensland played football in 2019, as part of the latest census findings – a three per cent increase on 2018.

“The numbers we have are very encouraging and we look forward to seeing Queensland produce many more Westfield Matildas,” FQ Technical Director Gabor Ganczer said.

“Having the FIFA Women’s World Cup on home soil will be a big moment and objective for aspirational players and we are putting a lot of resources into helping them achieve their goals, not just now but permanently.”

Football Queensland provided every local player who has represented Australia at Olympic Games, World Cups or Continental Championships since the beginning of July in 2012:

Laura Alleway, Mackenzie Arnold, Mia Bailey, Angela Beard, Georgia Beaumont, Savannah Boller, Eliza Campbell, Kim Carroll, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Larissa Crummer, Isobel Dalton, Casey Dumont, Charlotte Farmer, Ciara Fowler, Mary Fowler, Sunny Franco, Shekinah Friske, Emily Gielnik, Brooke Goodrich, Katrina Gorry, Winonah Heatley, Elise Kellond-Knight, India Kubin, Aivi Luik, Afrikah McGladrigan, Teagan Micah, Ayesha Norrie (Kirby), Hollie Palmer, Clare Polkinghorne, Kezia Pritchard, Hayley Raso, Jamilla Rankin, Taylor Ray, Indiah-Paige Riley, Arina Tokunaga, Kaitlyn Torpey, Cortnee Vine, Natasha Wheeler, Brittany Whitfield, Tameka Yallop (Butt).

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