Time for the haters to give a little love

by John Iannantuono on Oct 04, 2011

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For whatever reason, there are quite a handful of Aussie football fans that love to can the domestic competition. It’s been happening for years. It happened during the NSL and has continued right through to the A-League.

I’m sure you have at least one of these clowns in your circle of friends or family; the guy who can’t help but make outlandish comparisons between the A-League and Europe’s elite club leagues, or better yet, Archie Thompson and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ask them how many games they’ve watched and you’re likely to get the old throwaway line, “Ah, can’t watch it mate. The quality’s crap.” Enquire as to when exactly they did watch an A-League game from which they’ve based their insightful critique and if they’re anything like the armchair experts I know the answer would most likely be between seasons three-to-five. So in summary, a hash critique based on perhaps 90 minutes of football in six years of the A-League combined with a preconceived notion of the quality of the local game. Go figure…

It’s a pretty safe claim to brand last season as the best ever technically and tactically in the A-League. Teams dared to play with playmakers, with fluid movement of the ball and with tactical sophistication. Marcos Flores impressed in his No 10 role, the Mariners parted with their trademark ‘workhorse’ style of play and Brisbane Roar introduced a brand of football that many regard as the best any Australian team has produced. Ever

There was just one problem — many of those ‘critics’ never saw it. They heard about it on the grapevine, but given the lack of exposure the A-League received last season, there was little hope that they’d tune into a game — let alone watch a match live from the terraces — to change their opinion about the quality of the A-League.

Holger Osieck’s decision to select A-League-based players for the national team already has some re-thinking the standard of the competition. However, it’s the arrival of star recruits Brett Emerton and Harry Kewell that will change the narrow-minded ideologies out there.

The quality of the A-League is not the issue, but one of the biggest challenges that remain is to lure these armchair critics from seasons ago and retain their interest. And as Kewell’s drawn out move to the Victory proved, he’s quite adept at courting attention — and keeping it.

The A-League now has some cleavage it can flaunt in the public’s direct line of vision, and once onlookers get a sample of the finest Australian domestic football has to offer, I don’t think they’re going to look away. Instead, expect a few opinions to change.