You can’t blame the FFA if Tuesday’s A-League season launch doesn’t pack the knockout punch of the same event a year ago.
That was the first time three of the biggest names to grace Australian football were present in one room. The kaleidoscope of flashing bulbs was blinding.
Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono, signed within a code-altering few weeks, were fawned over by a bedazzled media scrum at Parramatta Stadium.
That euphoric start gave the A-League such a huge shove in the right direction that the momentum lasted an entire season.
Curiously, neither the Italian nor the Englishman played in the finals, but it mattered not. By then the story had become about the Western Sydney Wanderers, themselves eclipsed at the final hurdle by another great tale, that of the Central Coast Mariners.
Let’s face it: as we arrive on the cusp of the new season, it will be hard to top the 2012-13 campaign. Perhaps even impossible.
But forward momentum is a must. After troubling times, not least in the days of hasty expansion, bungled World Cup bids and financial turmoil, the game has finally rebounded. Now it’s reinvigorated.
When he gives his speech to open the launch at Sydney Football Stadium, FFA chief executive David Gallop will have a lot to trumpet from the lectern.
Del Piero, Heskey and Ono are all still here, and the benefit of a year of adjustment – not least pre-seasons that lasted longer than a few days – should offset the fact that they’ve all aged another year (and by January will have a collective age of 110).
The publicity and mainstream attention needs consolidating, and thanks to SBS putting the game on free-to-air TV at last, that seems a given. Fox Sports certainly won’t be backing away from their commitment to a league they have effectively subsidised since 2005. Their pre-season advertisement created global media attention and will even have head office nervous about topping it.
Playing standards, having improved as much as any league anywhere in the past three years, will surely rise again. Primarily, soaring coaching levels, driven by Ange Postecoglou, Graham Arnold and Tony Popovic, have reached new heights.
There’s also great hope, for example, about the change in style at Perth Glory under Alastair Edwards. That Adelaide gambled on the relatively untried Josep Gombau, because of his indoctrination within FC Barcelona’s mythical walls, shows the risks clubs are willing to take to for an edge.
Member numbers are headed for an all-time high, and seeing the Wanderers literally run out of available memberships is unheard of in any code for a club in their second season.
Gallop may not say it, but those inside the FFA won’t have minded seeing the other codes battling some tougher-than-expected campaigns.
Rugby league boosters boasted their game would swell to spectacular heights on the back of a television cash-tsunami, yet NRL crowds actually shrank.
They got off lightly. Ask followers of rugby union or AFL and they’ll tell you – for eminently different reasons – that 2013 ought to be consigned to the dustbin of history as quickly as possible. Even cricket had a stinker.
With a bit of luck, the biggest controversies in the upcoming A-League season will be cooked up on the field, not in laboratories or the all-night Hungry Jacks kitchen.
And given there’s a World Cup now just eight months away, in the sport’s most spiritual of homes, the round ball will be on many new lips yet again.
Added to last season – rather than pitted against it – this period might well be remembered as the turning point for football.
Never have we been so collectively eager for the new season to arrive. Friday night can’t come quickly enough.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →