Saturday, March 22, 2008


Split Personalities - update

Danny Vukovic's exclusion from the Olyroos has led to another instance of the "cap me or I'll join another country" sales pitch, by the opportunistic agent of Liverpool's Dean Bouzanis.

Unfortunately, the majority of those making comments on the story linked above, and on other football forums, have failed to see Mr. Palapanis's comments for what they are - a blatantly cynical attempt to use the "defection" card to force Bouzanis into Olyroo reckoning. Instead, the typical reaction has been more infantile anti-Arnold ranting.

International football might not pay the rent, but a place in the national team (at any age level) has its uses, and not just in terms of allowing the player in question to perform on the world stage. "Under 23 international" sounds a lot better than "Under 19 international" to potential club employers.

Having seen Bouzanis in action a few times during Sydney FC's preparation for last year's Asian Champions League, I can attest to his quality. He's a splendid prospect, without doubt. The Mark Bosnich comparisons, too, are apt, given that Bouzanis makes up for his less-than-imposing physical frame with his prodigious shot-stopping ability.

But the fact that he has already turned out for the Greek youth team, only to (apparently) expect a call-up to the Olyroos as a matter of course, is a fair indication of how he (or rather his agent) views international football. With this in mind, there are certainly reasons why a national team manager might prefer to give others a try in his stead, especially given that Bouzanis is still only 17.

It's worth mentioning, too, that although Bouzanis is indeed on the books of one of the world's most prestigious clubs, he does not appear to be in the first-team reckoning as yet (not that this would cut much ice with Pim Verbeek, apparently). Tando Velaphi has at least performed in the professional arena, and he has generally looked the part as well.

I see a solution to these sorts of dilemmas, which seem to be irritating for everyone concerned. Bring the kids into the squad for friendlies and cap them in the dying seconds. You don't have to start them, thus pandering to their egos, and the discipline - keeping their own and their agents' ambitions in check - can commence anytime thereafter. The issue is not whether Bouzanis should be brought into the Olympic squad or not, it's about exercising a bit of cunning to make sure that when the time comes that we do want him, he'll be available (unless he's so petulant that he goes into premature retirement, which is highly doubtful and in any case would represent a flawed character that is totally unwanted around the national set-up.)
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