Archive for July, 2012

The Twelve year itch

According to folklore relationships tend to struggle after seven years, but what about host nations at the Olympic Games?

Millions of dollars are poured into sports programs in the build up to hosting the games, athletes are generously funded, state of the art sporting facilities are built and Countries start taking interest in sports they previously have never heard of.

But what happens after the 16 day party, when the world spotlight dims on those ‘former hosts of the games’.  Host Countries tend to dominate medal counts, athlete numbers are bolstered, crowd support is at a premium, and the home team tend to perform out of their skin.

Four years later the funding is still flowing, interest in the various Olympic sports is still high, and those heroes from the previous games are still performing at the peak of their powers.  Eight years later most of those who competed on home soil are mostly retired, those still competing have lost some of their sparkle, and the interest from parties funding athletes dreams has largely dried up.

So where does that bring us? 12 years ago Sydney hosted ‘The Friendly games’, Australia was beamed into lounge rooms around the World, and Freeman, Thorpe, Hackett and O’Neil were household names.

12 years on and it’s fair to say we are struggling, as a nation we maybe expect too much from our athletes at times, but the Australian public have acclimatised to us punching above our weight and matching it with the super powers of the world.

Many of our Sydney heroes have now retired, government funding has been slashed, and youngsters who grew up watching a home Olympics have moved onto different sports.  Those athletes who dominated are now in the twilight of their careers, and making the team is as bigger challenge as winning a shiny medal on home soil.

Don’t believe me about the 12 year itch, look at the numbers (Starting from 1988, due to US/USSR boycotts in 1980 & 1984.)

South Korea

  Gold Silver Bronze
Hosts 12 10 11
12 years on 8 10 10
Difference -4 0 -1

 

Spain

  Gold Silver Bronze
Hosts 13 7 2
12 years on 3 11 5
Difference -10 +4 +3

 

United States

  Gold Silver Bronze
Hosts 44 32 25
12 years on 36 38 36
Difference -8 +6 +9

 

You can see from these tables that although the minor medals increase, the quality of performance drops off significantly.  This doesn’t read well for the Australian team, and watching the first three days of action proves my theory.  Hopefully I’m wrong, but it seems the British will dominate proceedings.  Let’s just hope the 12 year itch is still around in 2024.

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Heart on track with new squad

 

When Melbourne Heart announced that they agreed to terms with Korean club Seongnam regarding youngster Brendan Hamill there was some backlash on twitter and supporter forums throughout the red part of Melbourne.

Some fans were saying we are selling too much of our young talent (Eli Babalj, Hamill and possibly Curtis Good), while others were questioning if we still had enough players to fill a squad.  Let’s all take a deep breath and relax.  The club is in a great position; yes we have lost some exciting youngsters but at the same time have picked up some very important prospects.

I believe Heart have recruited very well in the off season, and will continue to do so.  A chat with Football Operations General Manager John Didulica confirmed my thoughts regarding this issue and also reminded me of a few things.  Didulica confirmed that the club still had three positions to fill, all with very specific profiles in mind.  Due to the fact we have already exhausted the five International Visa’s the new players will be Australian based signings.

The recruitment of Josip Tadic, Steven Gray & Patrick Gerhardt will not only bring some much needed experience to the club, but will offer new manager John Aloisi much needed flexibility tactically.  Didlulica stated that Gerhardt could play anywhere in the back four, or in the number 6 position (defensive midfielder).

The net was widely cast for the recruitment of Tadic, and not only does he bring experiences from Croatia, Germany and Poland but he gives the club a great target up front.  Sure he may not be 6’3” but he does have a more experienced head on his shoulders and I am predicting he will be a great success at the club.

Although we have lost half our squad from last year, I think we are assembling an even better squad this year, and one that will have a more successful run at the finals.  Fred’s injury came at a bad time last year, and if he can stay fit we have a strong blend of experience and youth.

People should remember that if the club continually wish to hang on to our younger players it will not only be a disservice to the club, but football in Australia in general.  Given our low supporter base this also give an extra income stream, and helps the club remain financially viable for continued successful in the A-League.   Heart is building a very good reputation for developing young players for the bigger Europe/Asian markets.

So for all those who are questioning the sale of our youngsters, look at the bigger picture for football in this country and remember that two seasons ago these players were just promising youngsters and through great coaching, development and hard work have turned into very good  footballers.

The squad is looking very good and will play some attractive football this season.  If you haven’t renewed your membership don’t forget that you only have until the end of the month to attract the early bird price freeze, and if you are thinking about becoming a member stop thinking about it and join up, 2012/13 will be our best season yet.

http://www.footballaustralia.com.au/melbourneheart/membership

Childish scarves not needed for derby

Melbourne’s biggest A-league advertisement is still over three months away, but you can feel the tension building between the two sets of fans already.

Supporters will argue if Melbourne is red or blue for the bulk of this time, with good humour and a healthy respect for each other; except a small splinter group from the Melbourne Victory.

Most fans enjoy the banter between the teams, I fondly remember the first ever derby when Victory fans produced their ‘No Heart’ banners.  This was extremely well done, and whether you were from the red or blue part of Melbourne you have to appreciate the time and effort that went into the ‘No Heart’ campaign. Melbourne Heart responded to this, cheekily reminding Victory fans of the 2-1 score line from the first derby.  Melbourne Heart also ran with the ‘Grass is greener’ referring to the amount of former Victory players that were in Heart colours in season 2011/12.

I have been in the stands for all these occasions, and there was never any animosity when these banners appeared, just friendly banter between the supporter groups along with some chanting trying to continually outdo each other.  Victory fans have the upper hand with the bulk of supporters, but Heart fans have done their best to hold their own during the various derbies.

At the next derby there will be as many as 350 ‘F*** off Heart’ (you can fill in the blanks) scarves, an idea created by some genius.  Yes, I’m a heart fan but I would have the same issue with these scarves if they said ‘F*** off Victory’.  The scarves are very childish and offensive, whilst I applaud clever fan campaigns, this one is immature, and not thought out at all.  Someone has made themselves some cash selling these items for $30 each, laughing all the way to the bank, without thought to the consequences this could create.

If the league allows fans to walk around displaying these scarves, the media will be all over it.  The game could be an absolute classic, but I can picture the Herald-Sun linking this image along with hooligans, thuggery and the typical football fan.  Football in this country doesn’t need this, we work hard enough to attract new fans through the gates every year.  I know we live in a ‘Nanny state’ being heavily scrutinised for everything we do, but these scarfs can only be bad for the football brand in Melbourne.

I don’t want the game to be become heavily sanitised, fans should be able to support their team in whatever way possible, as long as this is reasonable, and doesn’t offend surrounding supporters.  I want to see a great rivalry continue without incident, and without either team resorting to something petty like ‘F*** off heart’.  Sure there will be some incidents over time, but this one if clearly avoidable.

This is just a bad look for the game, one that we definitely don’t need, and one that football fans in this country don’t portray. But once again it’s a small minority spoiling it for the majority of football fans.