SOME of the A-League’s brightest young stars could miss more than a quarter of the upcoming season under plans being drawn up to aid Australia’s bid to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
Players including Terry Antonis, Corey Gameiro, Connor Pain and Jamie Maclaren are likely to be affected by the timetable mapped out by Olyroos coach Aurelio Vidmar, ahead of the Olympics qualifying tournament next January.
Having missed out on the London Games in 2012, Football Federation Australia is determined to give Vidmar’s squad the most chance of success, with appearances at an Olympics seen as crucial to developing players for senior international football.
A-League coaches were given the timetable this week ahead of a coaching seminar in Melbourne, with Vidmar planning a series of warm-up fixtures for eligible players on all the FIFA dates later this year. The opponents will include Turkey, Macedonia and South Korea in September, October and November, and would rule some players out of FFA Cup fixtures, then Rounds 1 and 6 of the new A-League season.
The qualifying tournament itself – with the top three teams earning places at the 2016 Olympics – runs from January 12-30, but Vidmar will prepare with a camp in early January, potentially ruling those players selected out of up to five A-League rounds, from 13-17.
Unofficial limits on call-ups per club that were in place for the 2012 campaign will be scrapped, with Vidmar determined to ensure his squad avoids repeating the embarrassing and goal-less performance four years ago. Overseas-based players don’t have to be released by their clubs but historically have been.
Sydney FC would potentially be the most affected A-League team, with up to five players in contention for the Olyroos, while Brisbane and Melbourne City could lose four apiece. One of the latter is Gameiro, currently recovering from a knee reconstruction but hopeful that he will be in contention for first team football by the start of the season.
The opening round of the A-League campaign will also be hit by Socceroos withdrawals, though probably limited to a handful including Matt McKay and Tarek Elrich. But Vidmar is unapologetic about picking the squad he wants, insisting players and clubs would benefit in the long run.
“Preparation for the Olyroos qualification tournament is very important and we’re fortunate we have been able to organise meaningful matches leading into the tournament in January,” said Vidmar.
“Qualifying for the Olympic Games is an important step in the development of our elite players with significant benefits for the players, clubs and the Socceroos down the track. We will play six quality internationals that will have the team match-hardened and ready for the tournament in January.
“Over the last 12 months we have had tremendous buy in from the players and their clubs and I have no doubt that will continue during the upcoming important phase of matches and qualifying.”
This story appeared on the Daily Telegraph on 22 July 2015, titled ‘Olyroos could miss up to one-quarter of A-League season under stringent timetable‘.