Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A question of profile

After a whirlwind start to summer down under, nobody has been left in any doubt the capacity for football, the world game, to make Australians scratch their heads in befuddlement.

From the celebrity to the downright unknown, from David Beckham to new Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek say, it's been a confusing time for many.

Some of the reactions to Beckham's outings in a pair of exhibition games against local sides can only be likened to the way an old timer might view the uprising of the internet.

Over 80,000 people turned out in Sydney to watch Beckham's LA Galaxy side lose 5-3 to Sydney FC in what proved to be a perfect snapshot of the former England captain's career.

A curling free-kick into the top corner, a second-half booking, some old-fashioned finger wagging and a final shirt-swap with Brazilian World Cup winner Juninho made the crowd's day, their smiles second only to those on the faces of FFA bigwigs.

But there were countless others who wore a permanent look of perplexity at all the fuss over a 'soccer' player.

For the three or four days Beckham stayed in the harbour city he dominated front and back pages. What he ate, where he went, who he spoke to, how he spoke and, finally, how he played was all that Sydneysiders read about.

Since then a french fry he reportedly dropped whilst dining one evening has been auctioned online. Another wag reportedly attempted flog a photocopy of his autograph.

Now consider this admission from Australia's West Ham defender Lucas Neill about Dutchman Verbeek, who ended 18 months of internal dismay by agreeing to coach the Socceroos through to the 2010 World Cup finals.

"I only know him from googling," Neill staggeringly made public after hearing the news of the former South Korea coach's appointment.

Those of you who have followed Soccerphile's coverage of Australian football over recent years will remember that this is not the first time Neill has put his foot firmly in his own mouth.

And while the likes of Tim Cahill and Craig Moore have since come out in full support of Verbeek, you can only wonder at the raised eyebrows at FFA headquarters.

"Football fans can rest assured that the FFA has worked diligently to secure a coach with the qualities and enthusiasm that will give the Socceroos every chance of success," crowed chairman Frank Lowy.

“Pim Verbeek has a vast range of experience gained over 25 years in coaching, including several stints in Asia, and we believe he is the right man for the job of leading the Socceroos to the 2010 FIFA World Cup."

Just in case anyone remained in any doubt, one helpful Brisbane-based journalist likened Verbeek, who beat off competition from Philippe (Omar) Troussier, to Hollywood's Jeff Bridges.

One certainty is that the 51-year-old is sure to become a familiar face to football fans after agreeing to one of the governing body's key requirements, that is, immediate and permanent relocation to Australia.

Although just five rounds of the A-League season remain before the top four contest the finals series, Verbeek is committed to a Sven-Goran Eriksson-esque touring schedule to run the rule over potential national team players.

He has just eight weeks before Australia kicks off their Group of Death qualifying campaign for the World Cup against Qatar in February.

Supporting Verbeek will be compatriot Henk Duut. The role of the former assistant to Ruud Gullit at Feyenoord has been described as the European 'eyes and ears' of the head coach.

"Some of Duut's main tasks will be to scout future opponents and also to play a significant role in monitoring the progress of our many European-based players," confirmed CEO Ben Buckley.

That, I suppose, includes Neill. I'm betting that Duut will know a lot more about the Socceroos captain-in-waiting than the other way around.

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

Australian Soccer News

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