John Aloisi: helping or hurting?

With A-League clubs beginning to convince the younger and fitter members of Australia’s golden generation to return to antipodean shores, the moves come with a warning from the country’s favourite penalty-taker, John Aloisi.

Aloisi, the first Australian to play in the all three major European leagues (with Cremonese, Coventry City and Osasuna), retired after one season at A-League new boys Melbourne Heart and did not have a happy homecoming after two years as Sydney FC’s marquee player. Even though he scored a creditable 27 goals in 75 A-League matches, his time in Australia has formed an unhappy coda to a wonderful career.

His experience has apparently convinced Australia custodian Mark Schwarzer never to return to the A-League. This is presumably because he “copped it” from non-football types who expect their superstar striker – which was what Aloisi was paid like, at least initially – to score more than four goals every ten games. With soccer, the general complaint of those who don’t follow it regularly is a relative lack of incident – and Australia have plenty of those fans. He was unable to bear the media and uneducated fan pressure which expected his building excitement around the league and his own play.

This is not his fault: he was the first striker from the 2006 World Cup squad to come home – Archie Thompson never left – and arrived in town at an age where his pace and skills were beginning to decline. Many of the expectations were not only unrealistic, but fantastical.

The A-League has garnered significant publicity for a fledgling competition, and in a country where it’s very much the fifth sport (or worse), it’s only natural that attention falls on those players with the greatest reputations and past achievements. That much of the publicity surrounding John Aloisi (and his less-gifted, more brutal younger brother Ross) was more negative than positive (language warning) has apparently left Aloisi – now the manager of Heart’s youth team – feeling like it’s important to shoo his Socceroo teammates away.

He’s now warned Brett Emerton and Harry Kewell that they face playing with lesser teammates. This, combined with his almost vicarious words through Schwarzer, makes him the opposite of what he was paid for in Sydney and Melbourne – an anti-advertisement for Australia’s premier football competition. His words – though almost certainly true – aren’t constructive.

He is of course free to give his opinions – and some of his observations are astute. Kewell and Emerton are likely to be frustrated by some of the circumstances surrounding football in Australia. Both, however, are aware of any potential pitfalls, but have been offered terms (or family benefits) which can’t be found elsewhere. Given his propensity for a life under the microscope, Kewell may find the going especially tough, while the reserved Emerton looks a virtual certainty to succeed at Sydney FC.

By making statements such as these while being engaged to develop youth talent mixes his messages and he hasn’t offered the A-League up as an enticing option for Australians or any other big names looking for a final payday. In fact, given his role in youth development at Heart (eeugh) he may be in the medium term, minimising his own future employment prospects.

The A-League is a flawed league – as are most, especially where football is not the nation’s primary sport. Australia relies on big name players to generate interest in football between World Cup campaigns. It is simple enough for Aloisi to say as such, rather than elucidating further. He should inform his teammates and friends of what they should expect to encounter in a private, rather than a public forum.

According to Henry Ford, should a person be satisfied with a purchased service, they will tell a maximum of three people; if they are dissatisfied, they will tell a minimum of seven. Aloisi is following that rule of thumb. Bad publicity now outweighs the A-League’s success stories in the national press. Further sideways aspersions from Aloisi is press attention the league can ill afford.

Matthew Wood writes regularly for Soccerlens.  You can find more of his commentary and analysis at Balanced Sports or follow him on Twitter @balanced_sports

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