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One-on-one with John Aloisi: “I want to coach again”

Socceroos legend John Aloisi has declared he wants to coach again “sooner rather than later”, hoping to get that opportunity locally in the A-League or overseas in the future.

Aloisi, who currently works as a pundit for Optus Sport, last coached the Brisbane Roar to two top-four finishes in the A-League, in his first two seasons at the club.

The 45-year-old would eventually leave his post in late 2018, during his fourth season as manager at the club.

In a wide-ranging chat with Soccerscene, the man who scored that famous penalty against Uruguay touches on the current status of youth development in Australian football, the need for a national second division, his future ambitions in coaching, the quality of local coaches, his playing career and the upcoming Women’s World Cup.

First of all John, the current state of affairs due to COVID-19 has seen a lot more youngsters get playing time in the A-League. Which young players have particularly stood out for you and how significant is it for youth development in this country for these players to get valuable minutes? 

John Aloisi: Yeah I think it’s very important for the players to get minutes. If you go around the world, the best leagues do have players at an early age playing a lot of games of football. You can do all the training in the world, but if you don’t play games you’re not going to improve as a footballer.

Pretty much every team in the A-League has had young players that are really standing out. It’s good to see the young Australian strikers at the top of the scoring charts, you’ve got Kuol at Central Coast Mariners, Wenzel-Halls at Brisbane Roar and D’Agostino at Perth all up there.

It’s a great opportunity for all the young players at the moment, because you’ve got the Olympic Games just around the corner. I think it’s exciting for Graham Arnold and for the young boys, if they do well they could be on the plane to Tokyo.

You played senior matches as a 15-16-year-old at Adelaide City at the start of your career. Personally, how vital were those games in your development as a player?

John Aloisi: I only really played one NSL game, but I played a lot of the cup games and whatever else, but at the time it was crucial. But look, you had to be good enough or else you didn’t play. Adelaide City didn’t just throw in young players for the sake of it, they had a very experienced squad. For me to play with the experienced players around me, I remember just in the starting 11, you had Milan Ivanovic, Alex Tobin, there were internationals, Tony Vidmar was there, Joe Mullen, Ernie Tapai and so on. I learnt a lot off them, not only in games but also in training, so I was fortunate in that way.

When I then went to Europe, I started playing at 17 in the first team for Royal Antwerp, so it was really valuable to get those minutes at that age to improve as a footballer.

Another thing that will aid youth development is a national second tier. There’s been a lot of talk recently about the right model for it in Australia; do you support the introduction of a full, home and away, national second division with 12-16 teams?

John Aloisi: Yeah, I do. I think if they can get that formula right in terms of the financials, that would definitely improve the younger players. They will get more opportunities then and there will be a different pathway for a lot of them. At the moment, it’s still quite tough for a lot of these young talented players to come up into an A-League side. If you have more teams, it will definitely help. You will also make it exciting with promotion and relegation battles and I think it will only be beneficial.

So, I do support a national second division and I believe in the future there will be one, it’s just the matter of how they go about getting one and how it works financially.

Moving on a bit from that, Aussie coaches have also been given more of a chance recently in the A-League. How do you see the current quality of Australian coaches and what type of differences have you noticed since you began coaching Melbourne Heart nine years ago?

John Aloisi: The quality of the coaches has been there for a long period. I think what’s changed and helped the quality is the likes of Ange Postecoglou and Graham Arnold, because they set a standard. From there, the standard keeps on going up and coaches keep on improving. A lot of Australian coaches have worked under them or with them, asked them questions and so forth, but also when you coach against them you learn a lot.

It’s a good thing to see more of these Australian coaches coming through.

Aloisi was appointed manager of Melbourne Heart in 2012.

You have obviously had a couple of senior coaching positions in your time, like I said with the then Melbourne Heart and also the Brisbane Roar. Do you have any further ambitions to coach again in the A-League or overseas in the future?

John Aloisi: Yeah I definitely do, I want to coach again. I hope its sooner rather than later, but it has to be the right job and right environment. Hopefully that will happen here in Australia.

In the future I would love to go back overseas and coach, I was there as a player, but who knows what the future holds. But coaching is definitely still on my radar and hopefully I can get that opportunity again soon.

Touching on that playing career overseas, you played in top leagues around the world including La Liga, the Premier League and Serie A. What can you tell me in regards to the difference in football cultures in these three countries based on your experiences there?

John Aloisi: It was very different when I was there. The Serie A was very defence minded, especially the lower teams, but it’s changed quite a bit now in terms of the way they like to play their football. It’s a lot more open and attacking, but back then the only thing that mattered were results. It didn’t matter how you won; the defence was key. It wasn’t always that great to play there as a striker, because we didn’t have many chances in a game.

England was a lot more open. The supporters there, if you tried, ran and fought, they would applaud your efforts. I enjoyed playing in England, it was a great atmosphere at the games and as a striker you got more opportunities to score goals than probably all of the three big leagues I played in.

The one that was a combination of both (Italy and England) cultures was probably the Spanish league. I just really enjoyed the style of football, the culture and the way they thought about football.

The three countries were all different, but football was number one, so it was great to be in countries where football means everything to them.

You obviously had a long successful career as a player, what would you say is the best moment you had in your playing career?

John Aloisi: The highlight for me was playing at the World Cup for the Socceroos. It was a dream as a kid, we hadn’t qualified for so many years. Watching the World Cups when I was growing up, was always without Australia there. It was exciting to play at a World Cup, but it was also just the whole build up…it was amazing when we finally got there. It was definitely a highlight for me and I’m pretty sure for all the players that played in that World Cup in 2006.

I think also playing in the Spanish Cup final for Osasuna, it was my last game for the club. To play in the Copa Del Rey final, the only time in Osasuna’s 100-year history to make a major final, was also a massive highlight.

They are probably two of things that stand out the most.

The Socceroos celebrate a goal at the 2006 World Cup.

Lastly John, looking ahead we have the Women’s World Cup here in 2023 and it could be a real game changer for Australian football. How important is it to capitalise on this event, something the game didn’t really execute with the 2015 Asian Cup?

John Aloisi: It’s massive. First of all, I believe the Matildas can win it. We have a great generation of talented women players, so hopefully we can win the World Cup and that will really boost the game on many levels.

But, it’s also about getting the infrastructure right for the Women’s World Cup, which will end up helping us in the future in terms of football at all levels. I’m talking about training facilities, purpose-built stadiums for football and that’s when it will be a lot easier to have a national second division and those type of things. When you have the infrastructure right, you can produce better players. That’s what we want to do, produce world-class players, both women and men.

It’s important to get the government backing us, because if they do that, we will get the facilities right.

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Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Football Queensland to deliver Women’s World Cup legacy plan to Parliament

Football Queensland (FQ) will launch its three-year Women and Girls Strategy (2021-2023) at Parliament today, in a bid to increase participation, infrastructure and club developments before and after the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

“The forthcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup is a wonderful opportunity to deliver immediate and long-term football, community and economic benefits for our game and for all Queenslanders,” FQ President Ben Richardson said.

“More than 1 billion people watched the France 2019 tournament and this next event on home soil is destined to be biggest global event in Australia since Sydney 2000.

“It is crucial that FQ and the football community work with state and local government on maximising this immense potential.

“That is why we have developed a Women and Girls Strategy so closely linked to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, with clear goals and funding objectives for the game.”

Former Matilda Amy Chapman, who is currently on the FQ board, explained the upcoming opportunities to inspire young girls to get involved in football in Queensland.

“I am extremely proud to have represented my country at the highest level and I want more and more Queenslanders to enjoy that same experience,” Chapman said.

“We have a fantastic track record of developing international players in this state from the early days of the Matildas right up to now. There are strong, successful pathways in place.

“In the Women and Girls Strategy, FQ outlines our ambition for all Queensland state schools to support this by delivering football programs for girls.

“With support from key stakeholders including the State Government, we can deliver on what is a bold approach to developing homegrown stars and promoting healthy lifestyles.”

Tuesday’s Parliament House event will also begin the celebrations of the centenary season of women’s football in Queensland, with the first recorded female football match in the state taking place at the Gabba on September 24, 1921.

Football Queensland have introduced a new website looking at the game’s history in the state, with a digital museum documenting all of these significant moments.

“As we unite football in Queensland, FQ is extremely proud to embrace the game’s rich history,” FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci.

“The timing of the centenary season, together with the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, aligns perfectly with our stated belief and embraced position that women and girls are the future.

“We are continually rolling out participation, infrastructure and community initiatives that recognise this reality, support our clubs and grow the game, just as the Women and Girls Strategy will do.”

FQ’s Women and Girls Strategy for 2021-2023 document can be viewed here.

Signality: The ultimate analysis and coaching source

Signality has built an artificial intelligence (AI) platform that gives clubs, leagues and federations real-time data which makes it easier to access statistics from games.

The Swedish-based company has created a system that gives an array of insights to use, free from the hassle of manually setting up cameras or using wearables – saving time and costs on installation that normally come with this type of equipment.

“We have built the world’s first fully automated player and ball tracking platform dedicated for football,” Michael Hoglund said, vice-president of marketing and growth at Signality.

“We don’t require operators manning a system, our AI takes care of capturing and analysing everything from kick-off to half-time, end of the game, and all the 3.5 million data points that occur in between as the game is being played.”

Signality’s data collection takes that responsibility away from coaches and analysts to keep up, capable of recording clearer and more accurate data in the process.

It’s collected in real-time, meaning there’s no need for coding windows, wearables or filming games – it is all done through the power of AI. Signality uses LiveInsight as a way to present all the very best data a coach or analyst could want.

“We are doing individual player tracking in real-time, with a fully automated process,” Hoglund said.

“Our clubs can now access detailed stats and player specific videos within five seconds of an event happening.

“All this is shared as raw data to our customers or through our cloud video and analytics platform, LiveInsight.

“As we collect three and a half million data points per match, LiveInsight is the product we use for clubs to make sense of this data – they determine the information that is displayed there and then the data is collected and displayed automatically – as reports and as playlists with video.

“The massive data-set is made up of the position and identity of all the players (even the referee) 25 times per second.”

Clubs can then have more flexibility about how they use data for all players, as individual performances are analysed.

While it may seem complex to record and track each player’s movement on the pitch, Signality makes this process a whole lot easier.

“We enable the analyst to easily string together complex data-filters that will then automatically populate and generate videos and reports as the game is being played on the field,” Hoglund said.

“For example, an analyst or coach might request for LiveInsight to show video of all the times that their right-back/number two, passed to their striker, number nine, for the last five games.

“LiveInsight will instantly extract those instances with video clips and associated data. We want to enable coaches and analysts to be able to focus more on the insights, rather than spending lots of times doing manual work with tagging, coding, and filming.

“That’s what an AI excels at, automating asks. We want to make analysts and coaches feel comfortable in offloading some of that ‘grunt work’ to us, being that support that frees up time, having their back when it’s crunch time.”

LiveInsight has been built to extract data from automatically recorded video to generate highlights.

It shows exactly how many times a player has touched the ball in different areas of the pitch, giving instant results that analysts and coaches can immediately use.

“For analysts this is a total game changer, saving them hours each week tagging. It also frees them up during games to focus on the game rather than filming it,” Hoglund said.

“Professional football analysts are almost always extremely well educated, and we think our system can make better use of their abundant skill sets.

LiveInsight has proved successful for clubs as they can make full use of their data through automatically tagged video.

“The very nature of ‘machine learning’ means that our product gets better over time,” Hoglund said.

“We’ll be even more accurate than we currently are at measuring player speeds and distances, dribbles, possession per zone, pass success rates etc.

“Human motion analysis directly from the video is another field we see a lot of exciting use cases for it by using joint detection, gait analysis, and player vision field of view.

Many elite clubs in Europe have turned to Signality for data that is less likely to have errors. With automatic insights, it is a more effective alternative than wearables, which can only extract data for a club’s own team, not the opposition or ball.

It leads to much deeper tactical analysis for every second of a match.

“We’re looking to work with innovative club coaches and analysts who want to get better, faster data,” Hoglund said.

“Any club who feel their analysts can make better use of their skills for match analysis and preparation, as well as opposition scouting.”

You can find out more on Signality here.

AAFC Chairman Nick Galatas: “We want the best possible national second division”

AAFC Chairman Nick Galatas has outlined his plans for the organisation for 2021, with the continued pursuit of the introduction of a national second division at the top of his list.

Speaking with Soccerscene, Galatas explained that at the core of the organisation’s work on a national second tier, is the importance of producing the best outcomes for the sport.

“It’s about having the best possible national second division,” he said.

“That is front and centre of what we have put forward. What we’ve asked our clubs to put forward is not the minimum they can do, but the maximum they can do. Yes, we can always do less than the best, work below our capacity and set low targets that we can achieve.

“But we think we can do better than that.

“The clubs are assuming the risk, they are putting up the money and their resources, they think they can make it work from within their capability. Let’s use it, why wouldn’t we tap into that resource?”

FA CEO James Johnson recently spoke with Simon Hill on the Shim, Spider and So Much Moore podcast, praising the AAFC’s model and philosophically agreeing with the concept of a national second division with 12-16 teams.

However, Johnson believes that a more pragmatic model is a two-phase system where clubs will play out their local NPL season, with the best sides to then progress into a national-based “Champions League” group stage competition at the back-end of the year.

Galatas believes it is up to AAFC to convince Football Australia that the research they have conducted, in their feasibility progress report, will ultimately show that their model for a national second division is the appropriate way forward for the sport.

“Our job is to show Football Australia what they philosophically think is better, is in fact better and does in fact work,” he stated.

“We are not rejecting the outline of what James put out the other day, it may turn out to be better. We will explore that further and try and look at that and imagine it to its best level and work on that in good faith. If it looks good, and the risk associated with that is so much lower to make it more viable, then great.

“But, our work to date shows that it is not the case.

“The cost to the revenue side of a more limited model and the difficulty our member clubs will have in selling that to their own people, in terms of generating the relevant interest, isn’t worth it, as the savings it involves doesn’t compensate for the forgone revenue and interest. We look forward to seeing the FA model James mentioned in more detail when it’s ready, but we have anticipated such a model in our progress report before settling on our preferred model.”

AAFC hopes to complete its final report on its national second division plans by April, with Galatas anticipating a lot of the year to be occupied by Football Australia’s modelling of the second tier, something the organisation expects to play a notable role in.

Alongside this, they will look to navigate through all the changes to the game that directly affect the NPL clubs they are representing.

The organisation intends to conduct some work on advancing the women’s game in the country in the build-up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup, whilst also keeping abreast with recent announcements from the governing body.

“Going on to the domestic transfer system and the white paper FA has introduced, we are definitely looking at that. We’re preparing our position and contribution to that,” Galatas said.

“Football Australia also recently put out its domestic football calendar, so we are getting our heads around that as well and where we fit in.”

Possible reforms are also set to occur to NPL competition structures across Australia.

“We’ll be working with the member federations and with Football Australia in continuing to evolve that,” he said.

“There have been reviews into structures in Victoria, NSW and one now happening in Queensland, so we are constantly working on that part of it because most of our member clubs are involved in that.”

Galatas, based in Melbourne, believes on the back of the enthusiasm and movement on the second division front, strong crowds should turn out for the NPL season in Victoria.

“A lot of people want to see their teams play, practice match crowds are up from what I’ve heard and hopefully there are bumper crowds for the season.”

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