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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 23 December 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 23 DECEMBER 2017 27 SPORT Ange Postecoglou PHOTO: ARCHIVE Ange heads to the Land of the Rising Sun to fruition only months later when the teenager was part of the Young Socceroos squad that qualified for next year’s Asian Cup in Indonesia. “It was a dream come true,” Christian says of playing for Australia’s U20 national team. “At any level, to represent your country is a good chance to show scouts too: you never know who is watching wherever you play. I’ve been enjoying my football a lot lately. The first game we played was against North Korea and then the second game was against Vietnam and we won both of them. “I really, really like playing under our coach Ufuk Talay. I have a good relationship with him. He’s pretty inspiring and pretty motivating.” Next year’s Asian Cup doubles up as the qualifiers for the 2017 U20 World Cup in Korea. Australia has missed out on qualifying in recent years and Theoharous is determined to show his skills on the world stage. “Obviously we don’t want to be remembered for the group not making it,” he says. “We want to be remembered for the group that got as far as they could and who gave it all that they’ve got. It would be good for football in Australia if we can qualify and hopefully we can build on what we have achieved so far.” As well as making his ALeague debut last term, Theoharous also produced an impressive display when Melbourne Victory played a friendly against La Liga giants Atletico Madrid last year. But the highlight of this season was when the 18-year-old came on as a substitute in the 1-1 draw against Brisbane Roar in Round six and changed the match. Theoharous’ 15-minute cameo saw the teenager set up the opening goal of the game, and he revealed that having the belief of Victory coach Kevin Muscat made the moment even more special. “The game against Brisbane at home at Etihad Stadium was memorable,” he says. “No-one actually knows the behind the scenes story about that. I just came back from representing Australia in Vietnam on the weekend and Kevin put me in the squad. “The game against Brisbane was on the Saturday and I came back on the Friday, and before the game the coach called me and said, ‘how are you feeling? How were your games? We might use you on the weekend’. I didn’t train with the team at all that whole week, so I was glad that the coach still trusted me and I was happy to have changed the game when I came on.” For many young attacking players trying to get their breakthrough in the A-League is especially difficult as international players tend to fill those roles. But Theoharous says he isn’t fazed by the competition for places. “Anywhere in the world it is difficult to break in at a young age,” he says. “It’s all about working hard and training hard. You need to show the coach that you want to improve every day and when the chance comes, to grab it with both hands and not to overthink it. “You’re there for a reason. You’re there because you are good enough. That’s all.” Like all Australian youngsters, representing the Socceroos is an aspiration but Theoharous isn’t thinking too far ahead. “One step at a time,” he says “I have represented Australia at U20 level. The next step is U23 and from there hopefully grab a spot in the Socceroos. But I really just want to concentrate on my club career and that will come after. “This season at Melbourne Victory we want to win the championship. As a team we aim high and for me personally, I want to get as much game time as I can and to help the team win the A-League.” Despite the criticism levelled at Ange Postecoglou during his tenure as Socceroos coach, few would argue against the view that he proved a homegrown coach was capable of successfully coaching the national team. When the FFA appointed him to the job in 2013 after a string of foreign coaches, Postecoglou was well aware of the importance of succeeding in the role, a situation which, by his own admission, added to the pressure of the job. Now Postecoglou has the opportunity to blaze another trail: to become the first Australian coach to succeed and win trophies in a big foreign league. Early this week, J-League Giant Yokohama F Marinos announced the appointment of the former Socceroos’ boss as its new head coach, just four weeks after he resigned from the Socceroos’ post. Yokohama has reportedly signed Postecoglou to a twoyear deal. Yokohama’s football department is run by the Abu Dhabi-based City Football Group (CFG) which owns Premier League giant Manchester City, as well as New York City, Spanish La Liga club Girona, and Uruguayan second division club Atletico Torque. Postecoglou will take up his new post later in January before the J-League season starts in February. The CFG link will reportedly give Postecoglou the opportunity to shadow master coach Pep Guardiola at Manchester City for a few days in January. It will also encourage Postecoglou to pursue his attacking principles in developing Yokohama’s style of football. In taking up a J-League post with a stable club, Postecoglou has made a strategic move knowing that success in arguably the strongest Asian domestic competition could provide him with a stepping stone to a prestigious European coaching position. Yokohama F Marinos is one of just two teams in the J-League to have competed in the top flight every year since the league’s inception 25 years ago. They have won the league title three times in its history, their last title coming in 2004. Postecoglou will replace French coach Erick Mombaerts (a former coach at Paris St Germain) and French national youth teams. Mombaerts took the team from 10th to fifth place in the season just completed. Marinos club president Koichiro Furukawa said, “Ange Postecoglou is an ex- cellent coach with an attractive and entertaining style of football which will suit our approach. At the Marinos we are committed to developing players and Ange has a very strong record in doing this. We are confident that he is the perfect choice to take us forward.” Speaking on the Yokohama Facebook page, Postecoglou said, “I am excited to be moving to Japan and returning to club football. Coaching YFM will be a great challenge and I am very much looking forward to working with the club’s players and young players in particular to achieve success.” Postecoglou will become just the third Australian to coach in the J-League following Eddie Thomson who coached Sanfrecce Hiroshima for three years in the late 1990s and Graham Arnold who had a short-lived spell as coach of Vegata Sendai in 2014. Other Australian coaches who have or are still coaching overseas include Tony Popovic who has just finished an ill-fated stint at Karabukspor in Turkey, Mehmet Durakovic (Malaysia 2013-15), Aurelio Vidmar (Thailand 2016-17), and Harry Kewell currently coaching at fourth tier English side Crawley Town.
16 December 2017
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