In Safe Hands

by John Iannantuono on May 23, 2011

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For a period of supposed quiet for the local game, you have to hand it to the FFA for staying in the headlines. Shame it’s been for all the wrong reasons, though.

Having woken from my off-season hibernation to the racket of Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart being dragged out of the Mirabella Cup by the FFA, it’s tempting to take a ticket and join the lengthy queue of disgruntled fans venting their discontent towards the game’s governing body.

But I won’t. I’m going to buck the trend and focus on something a little more positive (and on the field, too): our future crop of goalkeepers.

It wasn’t all that long ago when questions were being asked about life after Mark Schwarzer, Australia’s evergreen shot-stopper who appears to age as well as Olivia Newton-John between the sticks.

Ever since Zeljko Kalac farewelled the international scene in 2006, there’s been a lack of genuine contenders from taking the mantle off Schwarzer as Australia’s No 1. Granted, Brad Jones has been sniffing around, but our stocks in between the sticks have been about as plentiful as a fishing boat carrying a banana on deck. In case you’re not familiar with that saying, it means f*** all.

But as we sit back and review the season that was, bypassing all the negative press the local game has attracted, the shining lights of two Australian goalkeepers are sure to catch your eye with their personal seasons of triumph.

Former Victory goalkeeper Mitch Langerak tasted success in his first season of top-flight football in Germany by winning the Bundesliga title with Borussia Dortmund. While the 22-year-old spent much of the time in the dugout rather than inside the six-yard box, the one time he managed to get among the action — against Bayern Munich, of all teams — it provided enough evidence to suggest we’ve got something special brewing that’s better than the stuff they make in Bremen.

Then there’s Adam Federici at Reading, who’s enjoyed a solid campaign and stands on the brink of promotion to the English Premier League should the Royals defeat Swansea City at Wembley next Monday. Should this eventuate, it goes without saying that not only will his stock rise, but the experience for the 26-year-old will be immense.

Add to the mix the likes of Dean Bouzanis (20), Nathan Coe (26) and local products Mark Birighitti (20) and Matt Ryan (19) and the future is looking pretty bright.

The game may be a shambles off the park, but at least it's comforting to know that on it, we’re in pretty safe hands.