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SOCCER NOTES - QLD & OTHER

Johnny Warren - deeply missed
Johnny Warren - deeply missed
(Photo - Cycling Central)
 
I rate sports entirely by their entertainment value. To be entertaining, a sport needs to have a considerable degree of complexity, within a fairly tight formal framework, but with sufficient freedom to allow individual talent to shine. In this respect soccer - properly called "football" - is miles ahead of any other sport, with the possible exception of cricket (or should I say "crickets", as it now has several formats).

 
It's a pity the Australian scene has been in such disarray. However, around 2004 a completely new structure was put in place in place for Australian soccer. The top league, known as the A League, started with only 8 clubs but currently (2016) has 10 clubs, apparently selected on the basis of financial viability. In this new set-up, the Brisbane Strikers were replaced by the Queensland Roar, name now changed back to Brisbane Roar.

 
Everything went off to a good start, with the Roar playing some quality soccer, a higher standard all round and excellent attendances. Brisbane now has arguably the best soccer venue in the country, in the shape of the new Suncorp Stadium. However, the reduced-size competition is going to result in a much shorter season, so it remains to be seen how it will finally pan out in terms of takings at the gates. And I'm not sure how it's going to help the Socceroos in their bid for the World Cup.

Well, now I can tell you! - Crowds have been really good and there's great excitement after the socceroos qualified for the World Cup, dismissing Uruguay in the penalty shoot-out. Wish Johnny Warren was here. He was one of the foremost ambassadors of our game (in my opinion the most significant person ever in Australian soccer). Johnny, aged 61, died on 6th November 2004, after a two-year battle with cancer.
(The less said about Australia's luck in the World Cup the better. The team did themselves proud.)

Around to February 2007 already! This season's A-League final was won by Melbourne Victory. The incredible 6-0 win against Adelaide included an early send-off and 5 clean goals from Archie Thompson. A thrilling match despite the one-sided scoreline. In a post-match interview (Today, Channel 9, 19/2/07) the Victory's cynical coach, Ernie Merrick, said Ive never seen so many people get so excited over something that does absolutely nothing. Well, he's wrong on that one - what it does is get people excited!

And now it's New Year's Day, 2008. How the years fly by when you're having fun! After a slow start to the season, Queensland Roar have surged ahead under the direction of Frank Farina, who signed up as manager after about the 4th round. He was the one who steered the Brisbane Strikers to victory back in 1997, and of course he was also the Socceroos coach during the unsuccessful 1998 World Cup campaign. Well, now the Roar has hit the top of the ladder, just ahead of the Central Coast Mariners on goal difference. Only three games to go!

2009 - They didn't make it. Now they've changed their name to Brisbane Roar, as there's a newcomer to the league - North Queensland Fury, starring UK's Robbie Fowler. Since we moved to Cairns this is now our team, although their home ground is more than 4 hours drive to the south. Not going very well so far in the 2009-2010 season: after 7 rounds they're bottom of the ladder, but showing signs of improvement.

2010-11 - The Roar have a new coach and look a different team altogether. At the top of the table by a mile and haven't lost a match yet. North Queensland Fury are still not doing well. They've lost Fowler to Perth, but it seems he's not doing too much for them either. The socceroos didn't get far in the World Cup, but they've reached the quarter finals in the current Asia Cup (Jan 2011).

On the international scene, my favourite club has for long been Manchester United, paralleled only by Juventus during the early part of the Lippi era, when Baggio, Vialli, Ravinelli, Ferrara, Del Piero and subsequently Zidane formed the nucleus of the team.

For a long time my favourite player was Ryan Giggs, definitely no Australian! Here's a link to a portrait and (if you're lucky) a shot of Giggs in action. Probably his most spectacular goal was the one he scored against Arsenal in the 1998/99 FA Cup semi-final replay. He worked well playing alongside van Nistelrooy in the 2003/04 season to help Man U. to victory in the FA Cup and to third spot in the Premier League. There are so many great players around now, I'm not sure whether Giggs is still my overall favourite. He's up against the likes of Barcelona's Ronaldinho and my spouse's long-time hero, Zinadine Zidane. However, after a bit of a lull he's certainly been holding his own in the 2006/07 Champions League games, so I'll keep on supporting him.

Regrettably I haven't kept up this site. It is now 1 January 2017 (!) and the Roar are only doing moderately well.

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