By Peter Kennelly – @KennellyPeter
Is it the EPL? Is it the Bundesliga? No…it’s the A-League.
Ok, I will slightly concede that my home town league is not as quality and not as popular as those before mentioned, but dammit it’s the best we’ve got down here! And if you truly want to be a football hipster, then knowing leagues like this will make, as they say, your beard grow longer and your glasses trendier.
The A-League was formed in April 2004, culminating in the death of the National Soccer League (NSL). The NSL was seen as an ethnic-based competition that wasn’t lacking in quality but lacking in popularity. It needed a new image to try and get all types of people involved, not just those of foreign cultures. Thus, the birth of the A-League.
The name comes from the likes of many leagues in Asia, such as the J-League in Japan and K-League in Korea. The Australian Football Federation has just joined the Asian Confederation from Oceania, so having a like-minded name further helped establish the brand in Asia. The league has 10 teams: nine from Australia and one from New Zealand. It has no promotion/relegation as the lower clubs do not have the stature and size to compete. It also has teams that compete in the Asian Champions League based on qualification.
The season runs from October through to May. It is unique as they are the summer months in Australia, as the league simply does not have the power to complete with Australian Rules, Rugby League and Rugby Union during the traditional winter months. It has a ‘minor’ round season and then a finals series which determines who is the winner of the league.
As per a lot of leagues across the globe, the major cities dominate success. Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory are no different. Between them they have 5 of the 10 A-League titles up for grabs. Sydney FC have hosted some great players of yesteryear. Dwight Yorke, Marc Janko and most noticeably Allesandro Del Piero have put on the sky blue. While Melbourne Victory have hosted players like Grant Brebner, Harry Kewell and Pablo Contreras. Newcastle and Central Coast have also been crowned champions. The A-League trophy, which looks like a toilet seat, has never left the eastern seaboard of Australia.
But none of those sides hold claim to being the best side in the A-League’s short history. That honor belongs to the Brisbane Roar, who have won 3 A-League championships, the equal most in the league. They are also the only team to win back to back titles and went on a 36 game unbeaten run, an A-League record. They were coached by now national team coach Ang Postecoglou and featured players like ex-German youth international Tomas Broich. Broich counts Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philip Lahm as former youth team mates.
Adelaide United (my Hipster Handshake team) put the A-League on the map when it became the first Australian side to qualify for the Asian Champions League final. Quite the feat considering they had a shoestring budget and no experience compared to some of the Asian powerhouses. Even more stunning was the Western Sydney Wanderers, who actually won the title after being formed only two years earlier. If you get the chance, watch the second leg of that final and you will see one of the greatest performances in goal by Ante Covic. Truly breathtaking saves.
The league also features the Wellington Phoenix, a team from New Zealand (A-League being one of the rare leagues which features a team from another country). It has also had clubs that have folded, such as North Queensland Fury (Robbie Fowler played for them), Gold Coast United and New Zealand Knights.
The A-league all time leading goal scorer is foundation Melbourne Victory player Archie Thompson. He has scored 89 goals in 210 appearances. Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, who has played for Central Coast Perth Glory and now Melbourne Victory, has the most appearances with 230. Some other notable managers include German coach Pierre Littbarski and Barcelona legend Guillermo Amor.
So there you have it, a quick but hipster-like guide to my local league. It is a league that is growing every year and gets better with age.You never know, it could be the next EPL or Bundesliga…