Foreign affairs bring it home

Posted on 27/04/2020 by

SIX players have excused themselves from this week’s round of A-League matches because of international duty. Only two of them, Jason Culina and Shane Stefanutto, are Australian. Culina’s club coach, Miron Bleiberg, isn’t happy with the timing. But the real story is the A-League’s growing global appeal.Four years ago when Dwight Yorke skipped a game for Sydney FC to play World Cup matches for Trinidad and Tobago, there was more delight than disappointment. A year later when little-known New Zealand Knights striker Alen Marcina did likewise to play for Canada, the A-League began to contemplate the club versus country conundrum. Not only that, they were foreign countries. There are many ways to measure a league’s development, but how many foreign internationals are involved is a useful barometer. On that score, the A-League has come on in leaps and bounds.We all know how hard Pim Verbeek tried to dissuade European-based Socceroos from coming home. Happily, he failed. Once Culina tested the water, four other genuine World Cup contenders – Stefanutto and Perth Glory trio Chris Coyne, Mile Sterjovski and Jacob Burns – jumped in after him.Even better, is how many foreign internationals have made Australia their home. True, few are from first-level nations, and it’s fanciful to suggest the A-League will ever draw the world’s best players away from Europe. But when you consider Yorke was the only foreign international in the A-League’s inaugural season, the stats are worth celebrating.Last night in Melbourne, Carlos Hernandez was missing from Melbourne Victory’s line-up because he was in San Jose preparing for Costa Rica’s crunch World Cup qualifier against Mexico. On Tuesday, Wellington Phoenix defender Manny Muscat flew to Valletta to get his head around marking Zlatan Ibrahimovic when Malta play Sweden next week. Central Coast Mariners midfielder John Hutchinson would have joined him but was excused by the Maltese authorities because of the recent birth of his child. After tonight’s match in Canberra, Mariners midfielder Mike McGlinchey flies to Amman to make his New Zealand debut in a friendly against Jordan, while Gold Coast United striker Shane Smeltz will join him after tomorrow night’s clash against Sydney.Those players aside, there are another 12 full internationals on the books of A-League clubs this season. Most are more former than current. It’s hard to imagine Lloyd Owusu (Adelaide United and Ghana), Stephan Keller (Sydney FC and Switzerland), Sung-hwan Byun (Sydney FC and South Korea), Eugene Dadi (Perth Glory and Ivory Coast), Victor Sikora (Perth Glory and Netherlands), Robbie Fowler (North Queensland Fury and England) and Charlie Miller (Brisbane Roar and Scotland) playing for their national teams again.But Karol Kisel (Sydney FC and Slovakia), Dyron Daal (North Queensland and Netherlands Antilles), Wolry Wolfe (Central Coast and Jamaica), Jeremy Brockie (North Queensland and NZ) and Surat Sukha (Melbourne Victory and Thailand) can still dare to dream. And as A-League clubs improve their international networks, it’s fair to assume the quality of imports will only get better. Which is good news, because it will be the foreigners who will drive playing standards for the foreseeable future. The more, I say, the merrier.

Comments are closed