Monday, October 23, 2006


Department of Youth – update, Part 1

Not content with his on-air gaffe last Sunday, Les Murray has now decided to pen an editorial piece on the “youth crisis”. The SBS editorial team have, in fact, become quite adept at creating crises out of nothing ever since the inception of the A-League.

As usual, there’s plenty of frothing at the mouth, and a distinct absence of balance.

Let’s look at the centrepiece of Les’s argument first.

The presence of only five contracted A-League players in Ange Postecoglou’s squad for next month’s AFC Youth Championship, he states, is “very worrying”, and bespeaks a decline in Australia’s youth development. By way of illustration, he compares this with the 1991 World Youth Championship squad, which featured ten players “on professional contracts or first-team choices” at their NSL clubs.

Comparisons are odious, they say. In this case, they are downright misleading.

Never mind that the A-League is, and was always intended to be, a fully professional competition of the sort the NSL was not,

Never mind the fact that the European exodus was a mere trickle in 1991 compared with the flood it is now,

Never mind that there are only eight A-League clubs compared with 14 NSL clubs in 1991.

Moving on from that piece of Murray casuistry, let’s examine his bleak assessment of the options for Australia’s youth at present:

"…the A-League offers next to nothing for the young..."

...someone better tell Nathan Burns, Dario Vidosic et al....

"...and the nation’s technical future is on hold. Young players either accept their lot and study in institutes, play in modest state competitions waiting for their A-League break, or pack their bags for a trial at mediocre, low division clubs in Europe that offer neither decent money nor a guarantee of a future. But they do it because it’s better than nothing…"

So much misrepresentation and distortion in that paragraph that it’s hard to know where to start, but I’ll begin with the “modest state competitions” comment.

Aren’t these “modest state competitions” now populated by some of the same clubs who made up the old, semi-professional NSL?

In other words, aren’t the kids getting the same sort of development they were getting beforehand, with the option of a full professional contract if they make the grade (as, for instance, has happened to Adam d’Apuzzo and Luka Glavas, among others)?

Poor deprived things.

Then there’s the matter of these “mediocre, low division clubs in Europe”.

There’s a tale to be told there. Tune in next time.

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