Little attention is paid to Australian football, but the nation deserves respect for a dramatic rise in the popularity and funding towards the beautiful game at both domestic and international level.
The Australian A-League was established in 2004, and since then Melbourne Victory, Adelaide United and Brisbane Roar have all proved to be the heavyweight sides. However, the Wanderers exceeded all expectations this campaign and lifted the Premier's Plate at their first attempt, something no debuting Australian team has ever done before them.
The feat not only shakes up an already frantically competitive league, but also highlights the miracles clubs can aspire to achieve while playing under controlled wages.
Each of the 10 clubs in the Australian top division has a salary cap of$2.48 million to ensure the most level playing field possible. In addition to this, each team is allowed one ‘marquee player’ who is exempt from the constraints of the salary cap. This clever exception to the rule has allowed A-League sides to lure in the likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey.
Western Sydney Wanderers, the youngest club in the country, reeled some top-quality names into their squad for their introductory season, including legendary former Japan midfielder Shinji Ono.
The ex-Feyenoord creator was Western Sydney’s best player this campaign, contributing seven goals and three assists to his side’s success. Manager Tony Popovic and the vast Wanderers fanbase will be thrilled that the man known as ‘Tensai’ in Japan has agreed to remain at Parramatta Stadium for at least another season.
Growing in popularity and competitiveness as each season goes by, the Hyundai A-League is on track to receive more attention from the rest of the football world over the coming years.
Clubs must continue to strive towards signing high-quality foreign players, similar to Dwight Yorke and Del Piero, in order to maintain the rapid rise in football interest among Australians. Big names can make a world of difference, as we have just seen through Western Sydney Wanderers.
A number of big stars have enjoyed spells Down Under, but can you see the likes of Frank Lampard or David Beckham signing up for an A-League side? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
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