Tuesday, February 13, 2007


The Sarkies Situation

The proximity of the preliminary Olympic qualifiers to the A-League finals series was bound to cause some problems. With Kristian Sarkies picking up an injury in training in Taipei yesterday, the critics are off the leash.

Rob Baan, in fairness, has been given licence to take his full-strength Olyroo side to the second leg despite the 11-0 drubbing of Chinese Taipei at Hindmarsh; given the limited preparation time he has before the “serious” matches begin, one can understand his insistence on taking the whole crew.

But the match in Taipei, let it be said at once, does not occur on an international date, and therefore the clubs are not under any legal obligation to release the players (so far as I know).

In the past, Australian football fans have often railed at the “selfishness” of European clubs and managers refusing to release players for internationals, when their ire should really have been directed at the administrators for devising such a ridiculous schedule for the national side (do Caracas 2004 and Bogotá 2001 ring any bells?).

Now, with the A-League up and running and Asian commitments filling up the international schedule, the boot is on the other foot now and then.

Sydney FC, for one, suffered earlier this season when Mark Milligan and Alex Brosque were called up for the two matches against Paraguay and Bahrain. Terry Butcher, I feel, had a right to be somewhat aggrieved at the fact that neither played any significant part in either match (Milligan was a late, meaningless substitute against Paraguay; Brosque didn’t get on the pitch at all). In the meantime, Sydney were deprived of their services for two league games.

But given that the A-League schedule was not drawn up with the international calendar in mind, something of the kind was bound to happen.

Now it’s Ernie Merrick on the receiving end, and one can sympathize with him.

For my money, it comes down to priorities. Yes, Olyroo preparation is important. But does a training game (let’s be honest here) for the qualifying stage of a tournament whose importance is greatly overstated really take precedence over the A-League finals series?

After all, it is surely the FFA’s decision. And the problem will inevitably arise again some time.

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