Foreign players been the A-League’s greatest selling point in the battle for hearts and minds – so here’s my All Stars line-up, picked from 46 foreigners currently playing.
If there is one thing missing in the narrative which surrounds the booming profile of the Hyundai A-League, it’s a celebration of the foreigners. The All Stars game is a prime opportunity to change that.
Of course we recognise the individuals, and rejoice in the celebrity that the likes of Dwight Yorke, Juninho, Robbie Fowler, Emile Heskey, Alessandro del Piero and Shinji Ono have given us over the years.
But collectively, do we respect enough, and understand enough, the contribution the imports have made? I doubt it.
Players have arrived here from every one of FIFA’s six confederations over the last eight years – and some have clearly done better than others.
But what they have all done – without exception – is remind us of the enormous diversity of the world game.
Outside Australia, they’ve played a crucial role in advertising the growth of one of the world’s youngest professional leagues. Inside the Australia, they’ve arguably been the Hyundai A-League’s greatest selling point in the battle for hearts and minds.
You only have to watch the AFL’s latest advertising campaign to appreciate just how jealous the rival codes are of football’s global reach. So let’s make the most of it.
As a precursor to the season, the All Stars game provides the perfect shop window for the Hyundai A-League to illuminate its strengths. In my view, having only foreigners eligible for the team will help promote what remains a key point of difference.
For the inaugural game, of course, the fact that Holger Osieck is likely to have taken the cream of the local players with him to the East Asian Championships makes it much easier to focus on the foreigners.
But irrespective, there are long-terms benefits in making the All Stars team all foreign. We may not be able to get the likes of Manchester United every year, so an All-Stars match against what would effectively be a Socceroos ‘B’ team provides the ideal fall-back position, both in a footballing and commercial sense.
For the players themselves, this game can provide an important shop window. Earlier this year I spoke to NIcky Butt, who’s now involved in the reserves at Old Trafford, and he made it clear these type of matches are as much a talent-spotting exercise as a commercial one. Thus you’d like to think the foreigners won’t be lacking in motivation.
So here’s my inaugural All Stars line-up, picked exclusively from the 46 foreigners currently playing in the competition, and based on a 4-3-3 formation.
Goalkeeper: Glen Moss (New Zealand).
Defenders: Jerome Polenz (Germany), Patrick Gerhardt (Liberia), Patrick Zwaanswijk (Netherlands), Adama Traore (Cote d’Ivoire).
Midfielders: Mike McGlinchey (New Zealand), Shinji Ono (Japan), Thomas Broich (Germany).
Forwards: Alessandro del Piero (Italy), Besart Berisha (Albania), Youssouf Hersi (Netherlands).
Reserves: Mark Paston (New Zealand), Marco Rojas (New Zealand), Marcelo Carrusca (Argentina), Emile Heskey (England), Iaccopo la Rocca (Italy).
To vote visit a-leagueallstars.com.au and start selecting your Foxtel A-League All Stars team.