The A-League All Stars played Euro powerhouse FC Barcelona in Sydney last night. Barca won 3-2 but it was a surprisingly close and entertaining game.
The definition of a camel is “a horse designed by a committee."
And as Philadelphia Eagles coach, Joe Kuharich, said in 1967: “If you listen to the fans, you’ll find yourself sitting with them.”
So we have an A-League All Stars team picked by both the fans and a committee… What could possibly go wrong?
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It’s an interesting idea – an A-League All Stars team to take on a Euro powerhouse (plus their kids and reserves), and why not get the fans involved? It will certainly create interest and debate.
However, it’s a idea with two major flaws:
- The absence of a unifying principle in terms of matching players to a system; and
- Most fan selectors are going to err way too much in favour of the teams they support.
But wait! The squabbling and partisan fan choices can be alleviated by having the majority of players picked by a coaching committee, and then further augmented by the A League Commissioners’ picks. Problem solved.
Except it’s not, because the stand-out goalkeeper of the last two seasons is clearly Mark Birighitti. So why wasn’t he an All Star?
All fans will have their own opinions about who should be in the team and who not, but the Committee designed their Camel and we had to accept it.
So how did they go?
Surprisingly well, as it happens. It was never going to be a full-blooded competitive fixture but for an exhibition match, it was an absolute cracker.
Barca clearly took the game seriously and the manager Xavi was highly complimentary of the A-League lads. But his boys were masterful, effortlessly holding possession for most of the game. Even jetlagged they can play amazing football.
The likes of Dani Alves and Jordi Alba will always constitute a challenge for any attack.
Sergio Busquets showed yet again what a fabulous midfielder he is – at the heart of everything and keeping the ball moving constantly. Gavi and (their) Traore were always dangerous, as was Dembele.
It was their youngster Aranda who really impressed me. What a good player with incredible poise over the ball. He’s going to be a star.
As for our lot, I was not expecting that level of performance given my observations at the start of this article. For a bunch of guys thrown together with two days to prepare, it was bloody fantastic.
Mariappa and Rowles were rocks at the back (despite one fatal error from Rowles). Jason Davidson did well before doing his hammy.
But it was our attackers who really shone. Reno Piscopo showed on the world stage what a good player he can be – has to be banging on the Socceroos’ door. Anthony Caceres can be surprisingly invisible in too many matches but was one of our best last night – out-Barca-ing Barca at times with his passing and vision.
Cummings tried hard against two of the best centre backs in the world and might just have jagged a goal in the first half, and our Traore did very well, but most of the fans will be talking about Garang Kuol.
What a player!
Just 17 years old with 180-odd minutes of professional football under his belt, but this young lad is going a long, long way. Twice he might have scored after coming on in the second half – both times making the chance himself with relentless running.
He’s a wow-factor player of the first order. Sorry Mariners fans, but you won’t have him much longer. Hopefully he’ll be sold OS for a bit more than the usual pittance.
The A-League boys did themselves very proud indeed. Barca put on a show but it was also a strong display from the All Stars who just might have picked up a few fresh fans dismissive of the A-League's quality.
I’ve no idea how many will have seen the game around the world but it has to be regarded as an excellent showcase for Australian football.
The Camel Committee got it right after all.
Except for Birraz…
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. His first sci-fi novel will be published by Hague Publishing in 2022.
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