Players are ‘victims’ in Olyroo row
THE Australian players union has warned that Australia's best young players are being put in an "unacceptable position" over representing their country thanks to "corroded relationships" between Football Federation Australia and the A-League clubs.
Claiming it "beggars belief" that the selection of an Under-23 Australian squad for a tournament in China next month is the subject of legal proceedings just days from its start, the CEO of Professional Footballers Association Australia (PFA), John Didulica, said no player should be discouraged from accepting a call-up to the national teams.
The A-League clubs opened grievance proceedings against FFA on Tuesday, seeking a ruling from independent arbiters that the clubs have no compulsion to release players for international duty outside's FIFA's designated international windows.
The squad to take part in the Asian U23 Championships in China includes several players starting for their A-League clubs, such as Mariners forward Daniel De Silva and Wanderers winger Jaushua Sotirio, and who would miss up to five games in the domestic competition from taking part in the Championships.
Though the tournament has no direct bearing on Olympic qualification, Australia's final position will affect its seeding at the 2020 version in which the Olyroos have to finish in the top three to qualify for the Olympics.
The clubs' lawsuit is the latest salvo in the increasingly bitter conflict between them and FFA, and Didulica said the players should not be the victims.
"Corroded relationships are putting our best young players in an unacceptable position and, surely, we must be better than that," he said.
"For this matter to be determined at two minutes to midnight (before the tournament), given it was known to all months ago, beggars belief."
Mariners boss Mike Charlesworth was quoted as saying that De Silva did not want to take part in the tournament, but Didulica said no player should feel pressurized not to go.
"I have empathy for the coaches and the clubs - they are entitled to test the limits of FFA's right to use their players to compete at these tournaments," he said. "No doubt the ongoing failure to pause for the designated FIFA international windows has compounded angst over 13 years.
"However, as a principle, no player who has been rightly selected to wear the Green and Gold should ever be prevented, pressured or discouraged from doing so. Selection should always remain the exclusive and unfettered domain of the player and the national coach."
The clubs have sought to have the case heard by the end of the week, with players due to go into camp under Olyroos coach Ante Milicic the week after next.
But they and the FFA continued to trade barbs on Wednesday, with FFA rejecting the clubs' demand that only lawyers who had not received corporate hospitality from football's governing body in the past 12 months could hear the case as arbiters.