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AOFC (Asian Oceanian Football Confederation): ten reasons why Oceania should say yes

The Asian Oceanian Football Confederation. The solution to long-standing troubles such as isolation, backwardness and scarce international competitiveness which continuously involve the OFC (Oceania Football Confederation) could be found there, in the neighboring Asiatic counterpart. Without any doubt integrating Oceanian countries in a fast-growing scenario like Asia would represent a decisive, historic turn for the football played on the Pacific islands, which have had few chances to attract interest outside their relatively small continent so far.

Obviously it’s just an idea and nothing like this is on the table right now, but let’s analyze together which could be the ten biggest benefits which would derive from the birth of the AOFC.

1.International competitiveness

If you’ve ever heard someone talking about Oceania, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga on sports matters, they were probably related to the continent’s dominant sporting activity, rugby, in which all of them excel brilliantly on the global stage. Apart from New Zealand, where a footballing culture is growing up after the All Whites‘ heroics at the last World Cup in South Africa, barely you can associate the names of these countries to football, as many Oceania’s nations would find it hard even to compete against clubs from the Italian sixth tier.

2.The clubs

The same can be said about clubs. It doesn’t make so much sense playing continually against the same opponents, especially considering their low technical level.

At international level, OFC club teams can prove themselves only at the Club World Cup, where they often have to face off some of the strongest Asian teams in an uneven and difficult play-off.

It’s by far more useful that these teams play with a certain regularity at improved standards, and not just once a year. And getting the chance to play clubs like Kelantan, Nagoya, Arema or Seongnam, despite they’re not Barcelona or Manchester United, would already be an enormous step forward to the right direction.

3.Technical development

Oceanian football would heavily improve in many different aspects, from the growth of young players to a more professional management of societies. A technical development which groups any side of football both on and off the pitch must be considered the turning point around which all the the others would subsequently rotate.

4.The economical aspect

As football is considerably expanding as a worldwide multi-million market, the economical aspect is a hugely relevant part of the game. The Oceania Football Confederation actually lives of funds coming from sponsors and partnerships with other federations (the FA of England, the Australian FFA), and recently some drawbacks from Oceania’s football governing body showed how much they need to find a solid business stability in order of avoiding to affect the game in the continent. For example, OFC general secretary Tai Nicholas in September revealed that OFC couldn’t provide the broadcast of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers across the continent as it would have meant a cost of USD 140,000 for OFC TV, the confederation’s production unit, despite tv broadcasters from Tahiti and New Caledonia had already bought the rights. “We have to operate financially and be prudent with our funds and OFC TV was facing a USD 140,000 loss in the live production. This does not make good business sense and it would have been irresponsible of us to proceed any further,” he declared. “We apologize for the situation but there are high costs involved and great difficulties logistically in the production of such matches with games played across four countries within a few days of each other.”

Surely in Asia it would be extremely unlikely to face another situation like this, especially for matches such as the World Cup qualifiers.

And inevitably, the local federations of the Pacific nations can’t afford the costs of the organization of friendly matches at the current state of things.

All of us know how necessary is money in sports today, and for an upgrade of football in Oceania is indispensable a parallel economic improvement.

5.The passion of fans

In some Oceanian countries, like the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, football is considered the national sport, it’s widely played and gets thousands of followers. Local fans deserve to see their dreams come true one day, like watching their national team winning a once-in-a-lifetime match. And if you question the real existence of the passion for the game, just think that more than 10,000 fans watched the 2011 South Pacific Games final in New Caledonia, or that over 22,000 people came out to witness the Solomon Islands securing a 2-0 win against Tahiti in their first match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification games.

6.The chance of playing regularly

Factors like excessive costs and a lack of interest from international mass media contribute to positioning football at the lowest levels of the continental sports hierarchy. So we don’t have to be surprised if we discover that most of Oceanian countries play some international games just once every four years, during the South Pacific Games or the WC qualifiers, when these two tournaments don’t coincide, reducing even more the number of games that every country plays. And without any game time, improving is a titanic task-

7.A greater visibility

Let’s imagine that Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, two bordering countries, organize a friendly match. The Guineans, apart from playing a kind of derby with their Asiatic neighbours, would receive attention from an entire footballing nation like Indonesia, which counts more than 200 millions people. It would be a completely different new situation, as their opponents usually don’t number even 100,000 people among them (American Samoa, Tuvalu and so on).

And also national talents would take advantage of the visibility that Asian football guarantees, for not getting snobbed just reading their provenance on their identity cards. Because unfortunately it’s so difficult to find a player good enough for professional football on the Pacific islands that we shouldn’t be shocked to see things like these happening.

8.New Zealand: the British style in Asia

Not only the OFC would take advantage from an association with its Asian counterpart but also the AFC could improve a lot with a theoretical entrance of New Zealand, whose football’s impressively improved in recent years. Not only the All Whites shocked the world with their unbeaten run at the last World Cup, but also the youth national teams have shown glimpses of class, demonstrated by prowesses of high-promising talents with the likes of Leicester City’s Chris Wood, who has scored 13 goals so far in the Championship, and the labelled ‘KiwiMessi’ Marco Rojas, who is literally ripping up his opponents in the A-League.

A team who is based on a typical Britannic physicity with a huge amount of quality emerging: a more than interesting calling card for New Zealand.

9.The ‘Oriundos’: future heroes?

Some points above I had written that it’s very difficult to find some footballers suitable for professional football in the Pacific zone. Yet it’s difficult but not impossible, as there are Benjamin Totori from the Solomon Islands, who plays as a super-sub for the Wellington Phoenix in the A-League, Georges Gope-Fenepej of Troyes and Lorient’s Wesley Lautoa, both from New Caledonia, who ply their trade in the French Ligue 1, and the list could go on. But this list could even be much more longer if we consider all the players native of these Oceanian countries who could potentially represent their originary nation: just think of Marama Vahirua, a former France U-21 international who recently declared he’d like to represent Tahiti at the next Confederations Cup, Central Coast Mariners left-back Brad McDonald, who was born in Papua New Guinea, or Western Sydney Wanderers’ Tahj Minniecon, whose blood is mixed up with Vanuatuan heritage. There are many others unfortunately unavailable now, like Reading centre-back Adrian Mariappa, who could have played for Fiji instead of Jamaica, or Nouméa-born Frédéric Piquionne, who could have boosted Les Cagous’ team for the World Cup qualifiers hadn’t he chosen Martinique and France over them, or, referring to the past, 1998 World Cup winner Christian Karembeu, born in Lifou, New Caledonia, and the greatest Oceanian player of all time.

It’s easily understandable that most of these players chose to play for stronger national teams instead of their little-known native countries, but things would change had the Pacific islands the chance of fighting for relevant targets in the footballing panorama.

Why on Earth should Brad McDonald or Tahj Minniecon decide to play for teams who only get a handful of matches every four years instead of living with the potential hope of playing a World Cup with Australia (despite it seems unlikely for them)?

10.The history

The birth of the AOFC would mark the start of a new era for football in Oceania. And for these small countries every chance of playing would be historic, a pleasurable novelty, which would then become a habit. Unfortunately the ideas of just few people to make a whole continent dream will never be enough, a turn like this needs that the first steps come from the OFC’s headquarters. The only thing we can do is waiting for some good news, and maybe continuing to spread and create new ideas. Let’s hope one day we’ll wake up seeing this dream come true.

 

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A-League, la situazione a dieci turni dal termine

Sebbene sia prevista per questo fine settimana la sedicesima giornata, considerando i vari match infrasettimanali la maggior parte dei club dell’A-League ha già disputato 17 partite, il che significa che il campionato ha abbondantemente superato il suo giro di boa.
Con soli dieci turni al termine della Regular Season prima delle entusiasmanti finals, andiamo ad analizzare quella che è stata finora la settima stagione del massimo campionato australiano.

La classifica: dominano i Mariners

Dominatore incontrastato è stato il Central Coast Mariners del mago Graham Arnold, allenatore diventato ormai leggenda per il club gialloblu. La franchigia del New South Wales ha collezionato 37 punti, nove in più della seconda classificata, il Brisbane Roar, fermo a quota 28, dominatore della passata stagione.
E proprio il Brisbane aveva incominciato il campionato in maniera straordinaria, con 6 vittorie e 2 pareggi nelle prime 8 giornate, striscia che aveva permesso agli Orange di superare il record di gare consecutive senza sconfitta tra tutti gli sport del paese, superando il record della squadra di rugby dell’Eastern Suburbs risalente addirittura a 76 anni fa, con 36 match di fila senza mai perdere. E proprio dopo lo storico traguardo, gli uomini di Ange Postecoglou hanno staccato la spina, perdendo addirittura le successive cinque partite, lasciando così la strada spianata per la vetta al Central Coast, che nelle ultime 14 partite disputate ne ha vinte undici, pareggiandone tre.
La forza della squadra di Arnold non sta solamente in una grandissima organizzazione collettiva, permessa dallo spirito di sacrificio e abnegazione di ogni giocatore, ma soprattutto nel coraggio che l’ex allenatore dei Socceroos ha avuto nel lanciare i giovani: infatti i punti di forza dei Mariners sono tutti giocatori giovanissimi ma estremamente talentuosi, tra cui spiccano il portiere Matt Ryan, un ragazzo nato nell’aprile 1992 con alle spalle già 46 partite ufficiali, il centrocampista offensivo Mustafa Amini, stella assoluta di 18 anni in prestito dal Borussia Dortmund, l’attaccante di origini nigeriane Bernie Ibini Isei, anche lui 19enne ma capace di fare reparto da solo nella squadra, tant’è che è stato designato da molti come l’erede naturale del Dukes, il mitico Mark Viduka. Quest’ultimo paragone è forse un pò azzardato, ma spiega bene di che livello sia il materiale tecnico a disposizione dell’allenatore gialloblu.

Le grandi deluse: il Melbourne Victory

La stagione della squadra più titolata in Australia è stata fin qui disastrosa. Nonostante l’arrivo della leggenda Harry Kewell, il club ora sotto la guida di Jim Magilton ha ottenuto risultati oltremodo deludenti, con soli 19 punti raccimolati in 16 partite. Decisamente troppo poco per la rosa a disposizione, ma i dati diventano ancora più allarmanti se sottolineamo le 5 sconfitte su 7 partite giocate in trasferta e le sole 3 vittorie su 9 gare tra le mura amiche. Risultati che hanno portato all’esonero del manager con il quale i Victory avevano cominciato la stagione, Mehmet Durakovic, il cui apporto è stato davvero nullo o quasi alla causa della squadra. La società spera che con un uomo col carisma di Jim Magilton le cose possano cambiare, ma la missione dell’ex tecnico dell’Ipswich è tutt’altro che semplice. Nonostante tutto, il Melbourne Victory ha la fortuna di giocare in un campionato estremamente equilbrato come l’A-League, e le Finals sono distanti pochissimo. Ma serve immediatamente invertire la tendenza.
Alla lista delle squadre deluse bisogna aggiungere il Gold Coast United. La squadra di Miron Bleiberg è ultima in campionato, ma la stagione è ancora salvabile. Ciò che condanna la franchigia del Queensland non sono tanto i risultati sul campo, ma l’approssimativa gestione societaria del ricchissimo proprietario Clint Palmer che costringe la squadra a giocare praticamente a porte chiuse, dato che lo Skilled Park è sempre deserto, ed è l’unico stadio del campionato ad avere una media spettatori davvero bassa. Per non rovinare l’immagine del campionato e per non diventare la terza società dopo New Zealand Knights e North Queensland Fury a sparire dalla competizione, sono necessari interventi urgenti per sistemare la situazione.

Un equilibrio sottilissimo

Ciò che caratterizza questa stagione dell’A-League è un sostanziale equilibrio. Tra l’ultima della graduatoria, il Gold Coast United, e la sesta classificata (ultima piazza disponibile per i play-off), il Sydney FC, ci sono solamente sei punti di distanza, un divario piuttosto ristretto considerando che mancano dieci giornate al termine.
Se non ci fosse il Central Coast Mariners, che vola spianato verso la Premiership, si tratterebbe del campionato più equilbrato di sempre. Ma occhio alle sorprese, perché in partite come quelle delle fasi finali, che sono gare secche, non sempre il più forte riesce a spuntarla. E il bello è proprio questo.

AFC Champions League 2012: cosa aspettarci?

Per la prima volta da quanto l’Australia è membro dell’AFC, saranno tre e non due le squadre partecipanti alla massima competizione continentale: Brisbane Roar, Central Coast Mariners e Adelaide United, le prime tre classificate nella stagione passata. Il Brisbane non avrà un girone particolarmente complesso, con Bejing Guoan, FC Tokyo e Ulsan Hyundai, mentre sarà più dura per il Central Coast Mariners, che se la vedrà con Nagoya Grampus, Tianjin Teda e Seongnam. Infine l’Adelaide United giocherà contro Bunyodkor, Gamba Osaka e la vincitrice tra Buriram PEA e Pohang Steelers, in un girone difficile ma non impossibile per gli uomini di Kosmina.
Non essendoci altre competizioni di spessore quest’anno, tutte le speranze calcistiche del 2012 dell’Australia sono rivolte alle performance nella AFC Champions League, sperando che si riesca finalmente ad ottenere qualche risultato di prestigio, dato che, fatta eccezione per l’Adelaide United nel 2008, le squadre australiane sono sempre state deludenti nella manifestazione.

A-League 2011/2012 – Classifica

Central Coast Mariners 37
Brisbane Roar 28
Melbourne Heart 25
Wellington Phoenix 24
Perth Glory 22
Sydney FC 20
Melbourne Victory 19
Adelaide United 19
Newcastle Jets 18
Gold Coast United 14

Team of the Season (17 giornate)

Ryan
Bojic Zwaanswijk Durante Behich
Fred Amini M.Thompson
Nichols Berisha Dugandzic

Sostituti:

Covic
Franjic
Wilkinson
Muscat
Halloran
Antonis
A. Thompson

Coach:

Graham Arnold

A cura di Christian Rizzitelli

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