Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Commentators furious at Aussies' U-17 Asian loss

Australian football legends Rale Rasic and Les Scheinflug have renewed their attack on Australia's national youth program after the first Australian side to participate in an Asian Football Confederation tournament failed to make it past the first stage of the qualifiers for the World Under-17s Championships.

In The Australian newspaper they described Australia's elimination at the hands of Laos as a "scandal" and "an embarrassment". Scheinflug warned about problems with the youth program last September when he told the newspaper that the sport at junior level needed a "top to toe overhaul" shortly after the 17s had crashed out of the World Youth Championships in Peru.

"How could this happen? How do you get eliminated by a country like Laos?" he asked. "They have how many people... five million (six million at last official count)? We have over 20 million. We have all the wonderful facilities, academies, super coaching, money, huge junior registrations and infrastructure. And what do the Laotians have? Not near as much as us."

During his assessment back in September, Scheinflug called for the sacking of national youth coach Ange Postecoglou, who has been in charge of the 17s and under-19s for close to seven years and national teams high performance manager John Boultbee.

Rasic, the first man to take the Socceroos to the World Cup finals in 1974, said: "Some people might think this is not a big deal because it is junior football but it is a scandal for our game. We have prided ourselves on the success of the Joeys and Young Socceroos. They are the foundation for the Socceroos. If they are not succeeding or producing players then the Socceroos will ultimately suffer."

Rasic and Scheinflug believe Football Federation Australia needs to appoint an overseas coach as director of coaching and that the domestic competition, the A-League, should have a youth league competition. "Even world renowned coach Aime Jacquet [who won the World Cup with France in 1998], said we have to have a national under-20s competition when he visited here recently."

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