What is the benefit to Australia of touring teams such as Manchester United or Liverpool FC? These are only exhibition games right?
Yes the tourists will reap the reward in the long term from shirt sales, visits to their cities and stadiums from newly acquired and existing fans and building their brand. Yes they are exhibition games and the speed is somewhat slower than normal for them.
However these games do serve a purpose for Australian football. Make no mistake, they are marketing tools and Football Federation Australia (FFA) is milking them for what they are worth, but the football at pitch level will ultimately benefit.
The FFA has charged payment to watch public training sessions, they have slapped on ridiculous entry fees to watch the flagship events; rare games by travellers Manchester United and Liverpool FC, two of the biggest football clubs England and Europe alike.
What has been done depriving many fans the ability to go and watch live is a farce. They are bleeding dry fans for the right to watch their team on Australian soil.
The benefit of these games holistically is seeing 83,000 in Sydney and 95,000 in Melbourne attend football games. Fantastic for our sport!
In terms of football played it is a realisation that the standard of our game has a long way to go. It is understood and so it is not a problem as our game is developing. How do we take that next step in creating good players, teams and a world class league?
We can take notes, and see that football can be both robotic and show a display of flair and trickery. That is what we call the X-factor and the A-League All Stars though decimated due to an Australian international on the same night as their match did not have.
If we look at one aspect of class and X-factor Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck on no more than three occasions showed viewers what a ‘DUMMY’ is and WITHOUT touching the ball how you can deceive an entire defence.
The opening goal to Manchester United saw a Ryan Giggs pass to Welbeck who knowingly feinted over but without the ball and took two defenders with him leaving an unmarked Lingard to get one on one with the keeper Ante Covic – the rest is history.
Later in the first half Welbeck again dummied the ball and became the third player in a passing combination (rather than second) and so also found himself one on one with Covic – that brought a fine save. Again quoting Welbeck, the second goal saw him run along the line not to get offside, and then dart forward once the ball was played to position for the shot, or rather pass across the keeper and into the net. A fine number 9’s goal.
The point I am getting to is all this is coachable and simple football practices can help bring this sort of football to our game too. Players need to know about running off the ball, and awareness – again coachable and can be built into game training.
The emphasis of the tour for the touring players is that matches bring fitness. Australia for so long has worried about fitness without the ball, without games, and preseasons that span months, not weeks.
Robin Van Persie, who played 30 minutes after joining his team only four days prior from vacation scored one goal and looked as sharp as any other player out there.
Careful loading of time and physicality into players’ muscles at an intensity that will gain fitness is what we need to strive for, not aimlessly running.
When Liverpool takes on Melbourne Victory players like Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez will show what it is to be world class – in different roles.
Gerrard is perhaps the finest player of his generation in the English Premier League and has adapted as his career has gone on. Pass perfect and the reading of the game to make that match winning challenge or score the match winning goal.
He is a club man and professional at the highest level. He is the type of player who’ll die for the cause. That desire is what makes these guys the best.
All behavioural issues aside, we should be trying to capture the Suarez model in a bottle and feed it to young players; Running at players, turning them inside and out, creating and scoring. It is what wins games and makes them fun to watch.
In a sport where goals are crucial as a solitary goal will win or lose you the game. The next phase of Australian football development needs to be making creative footballers that can read the game and make something from nothing.
So as we welcome and farewell our heroes we need to take an important lesson. Football wins games!