The A-League was launched to bring the “world game” in this country up to global standards. And in true European style, Australian football is already dominated by the richest club.
Sydney FC, winner of both the pre-season and season trophies, is universally referred to as the game’s “glamour club”. To me, this is akin to nominating Sydney City RSL as the glamour club of the state’s pokie dens.
But Sydney FC is miles ahead. The team boasts the league’s highest-paid coach (Pierre Littbarski) and player (Dwight Yorke) – and the only two who have succeeded at the game’s top levels. As a player, Littbarski won the World Cup with Germany, while Yorke was Manchester United’s top scorer six years ago when it won the European Champions League.
Of course, both fell on hard times afterwards – Littbarski was coaching in Japan and Yorke couldn’t get a game at lowly Birmingham City. Why else would they now be slumming it in Australia?
Above all, Sydney’s success should be attributed to the magic touch of Frank Lowy, the club’s backer and the Football Federation of Australia chairman. After creating the A-League and guiding the Socceroos to an unlikely World Cup qualification, Lowy has proved so adept at rectifying disasters that he should be sent to fix up Iraq.
The A-League will be a victim of its own success. All the stars will leave whenever they accomplish anything. Yorke and Littbarski have already received offers after their success at the World Club Championship and will probably choose more prestige in Europe or more cash in Dubai. Sydney must pray that “All Night” Dwight’s love for the nightlife keeps him in his apartment, a stone’s throw from Hugo’s Lounge.
Sydney FC and the A-League should be congratulated on an excellent first effort. Despite all the hype, though, the sport can’t truly be considered a success until it’s on free-to-air television. Until that happens, it must not be forgotten that the “world game” gets less coverage here than netball, lawn bowls and Bert’s Family Feud.