It was a strange night for Football.
I can’t remember the last time I sat shivering at an A-League Game. There were navy blue hats and scarves but no Melbourne Victory in sight. Rogue Traders tried their best to rev up a mid-week Winter crowd. They looked more accustomed to watching Masterchef. An orange haired mascot contorted himself into strange positions for no obvious reason than he didn’t know what else to do. A little like the players in the first half.
The overwhelming sense was that crowd needed convincing. Some came because they were curious. Others had the scarves and the membership lanyards. They were solid on before a ball had been kicked. Most were somewhere in between.
They wouldn’t have been encouraged by what was dished up at first. After the game Michael Marrone said the players were nervous. They looked every bit of it.
Worm tried some trickery. He embarrassed himself. If he thought this Australian thing was going to be a breaze he was wrong.
Re-organised under the besuited Graham Arnold, the Mariners looked like a disciplined side. They dictated from the start and nullified Skoko.
I overheard some guy say “they look like they don’t know what to do.” You could only presume he wasn’t talking about the Central Coast.
I’ve never liked Adam Kwasnik and I was reminded why as he tangled with Michael Beauchamp.
Wilkinson never scores goals yet he did at a corner.
Things were better in the second half.
Alex caught the eye more than once. I have high hopes for this little guy. He acted as conductor for the supporters behind the goal as the game wore on. It worked too.
Aziz Behich deservedly replaced Worm. Like the other youngster Babalj, he was hungry, chased hard and seemed to delight everyone in my park of AAMI Park.
They tried bloody hard but they couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net. They deserved at least a point but in truth I wasn’t surprised when it didn’t come.
As for Clint Bolton’s effort to charge up the ground in the dying minutes. It was bold, brave and ambitious. It didn’t come off but it was worth the try. You would hope, a sign of things to come.
I wholeheartedly agreed with the suggestion made at Heart Shaped Blog that the Asian player market should be given serious thought in future player recruiment.
I did allude to this point in jest the other day.
However, in all seriousness the trialling of Gouramangi Singh is an important step in capturing Melbourne’s burgeoning Asian population.
I am specifically speaking of the sub-continent student communities here. Many are young, male and enjoy sport. Having studied and worked along side them for many years, I know this is true.
The idea that they would embrace the game deserves consideration by the Melbourne Heart administration. The AFL is going to struggle to engage these people.
Football must be there to bring them in. It can start be signing one or two Indian players who have promise and fit the playing requirements. I say Indian because I know there are players playing at the level required to enter the A-League.
One of the great blights in the British football experience is the lack of East Asian participation in professional football.
With the exception of Baichung Bhatia (pictured below), Michael Chopra and a handful of others- Indians of first or second generation have, at the most, sat in the stands supporting Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur. Even then the supporter numbers have been weak.
I’d like to see players like Singh, who have a decent pedigree in Asia given trials at Melbourne Heart.
You can see the coverage his time in Melbourne is already receiving in India. And the club hasn’t even signed him yet.
This should be no token gesture.
Having an Indian player like Singh running around AAMI Park in a Heart shirt will give many of these young men and women a player to identify with. A reason to start watching football.
Let’s get the ball rolling.
Over the past few weeks I have been overseas. Unfortunately not South Africa or anywhere near the Jules Rimet. Somewhere where the internet is very expensive and Melbourne Heart doesn’t rate a mention.
I am back on deck now and feverishly consuming the World Cup from the depths of my ice-box in regional Victoria.
When I started this blog I vowed to only write about Melbourne Heart. For this I am glad. There is so much I want to say about the Socceroos right now. And the football fiesta of the past week. I won’t.
Instead I will send this message to the Melbourne Heart board.
Dear Peter Sidwell,
You have a heart. This we know.
In the current World Cup few players will be capable of marking Luis Fabiano out of the game.
Born into a Stalinist regime in 1985, Ri Kwang-Chon, has had a tough life. Throughout his youth he only ever trained on asphalt. This is what they do in North Korea.
I didn’t know he existed until the other night. Then I saw him stick it to Brazil.
Yes Brazil did win. North Korea did lose. But this guy was outstanding.
I now visualise Ri ruling a future Melbourne Heart defence. Laying down the law North Korean style. Crisp tackles, aerial challenges.
When you see him you will agree…he is what the British call an uncompromising defender. He is exactly what we need.
I know we have signed everyone. Or just about. But I am asking you to make a little extra room in the budget.
He won’t cost much. I promise.
Dr M. Hartly