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Sport Viduka slams 'clueless' FFA, former Socceroos teammates

02:39  06 april  2020
02:39  06 april  2020 Source:   theage.com.au

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The Australia national soccer team represents Australia in international men's soccer. Officially nicknamed the Socceroos , the team is controlled by the governing body for soccer in Australia

Viduka made his return to the first team after six months out injured at former club Middlesbrough, coming on for Martins as a substitute on 29 Although a regular scorer in the Premier League, Viduka has struggled to score any significant goals for the Socceroos , and the 2006 World Cup was no

Hanoi, VIET NAM: Australian forward Mark Viduka (R) speaks as Harry Kewell (L) listens during a pre-match press conference in Hanoi, 20 July 2007. Australia will face defending champion Japan in a quarter-final match of the Asian Football Cup in Hanoi on 21 July. AFP PHOTO/ LIU Jin (Photo credit should read LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images) © 2007 AFP Hanoi, VIET NAM: Australian forward Mark Viduka (R) speaks as Harry Kewell (L) listens during a pre-match press conference in Hanoi, 20 July 2007. Australia will face defending champion Japan in a quarter-final match of the Asian Football Cup in Hanoi on 21 July. AFP PHOTO/ LIU Jin (Photo credit should read LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images) Socceroos great Mark Viduka has labelled the FFA and those who have run the game in Australia for the past 15 years as clueless in their understanding of how football works.

And he has also lifted the lid on how he felt former Socceroos captain Lucas Neill tried to undermine him when he was the national team skipper during the disastrous Asian Cup campaign of 2007, which then caretaker coach Graham Arnold led.

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In an interview released early Monday morning on ESPN Australia, Viduka, who now lives in Zagreb and runs a cafe, pulled punches, talking about the game in his home country, Arnold, Neill, his time as Socceroo skipper and how he nearly moved to Manchester United and AC Milan while starring at Leeds United in the Premier League.

The former Melbourne Knights junior and Celtic, Leeds and Newcastle striker, whom many believe to be the greatest player Australia has ever produced, said there had been no attention focussed on junior development and little willingness to embrace the knowledge and experience of former top players in Australia.

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Socceroos coach Guus Hiddink, who is also in charge of Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, now has the opportunity to enhance his World Cup pedigree after taking joint hosts South Korea to the semi-finals in 2002. Middlesbrough striker Viduka - who later missed a penalty in the shoot-out - instinctively

Instead, he said, the sport has largely been run by people who have little understanding of its passion, its structure and what makes it tick.

"You have people running football in Australia that don't have a clue about football," he said.

"They don't want to get older players involved, who actually have that experience, who have been in those situations in front of 100,000 people. When the s--t hits the fan, what are they going to do?"

Asked what he thought of Arnold and that time at the Asian Cup he said: "He's alright. I can only judge him from the days before, and he's done really well with Sydney.

"Hopefully he's learned a lot from the days of when he coached the national team at the Asian Cup, especially man management."

Viduka's biggest issue from the fallout of that campaign was the tension in the squad, which he believed stemmed from Neill's belief that he should have been captain, not Viduka, at the 2006 World Cup.

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FFA slammed those 'reckless individuals' involved and warned bans would follow. The Socceroos fell 2-1 to Greece, beaten by a wonder goal and their own disorganisation in their final match before September's World Cup qualifiers.

Mark Viduka 's international future with Australia is still in the balance. The 32-year-old Newcastle striker is undecided on whether to carry on for the 2010 World Cup. Share or comment on this article: Newcastle striker Viduka undecided over quitting Socceroos .

"I think some people came to that Asian Cup thinking more about themselves, more than the national team," he said.

"I think Lucas Neill came to that Asian Cup at that stage not in a good state of mind because of the fact that Graham Arnold had offered him the captaincy because he wasn't sure I was coming to the Asian Cup or not.

"Once I was at the Asian Cup either [Arnold] wasn't brave enough to tell me that I wasn't captain anymore, and I felt Lucas Neill was sulking the whole Asian Cup, through the preparations for it ... and it affected other players.

"I think Lucas tried to undermine me. His priority was to be captain - more because of his other activities off the pitch rather than on the pitch stuff. That's my opinion. That was the main reason I stopped playing for the national team.

"Do I regret stopping? No. Because my problem was that my generation of players that I grew up with were a different breed to the new generation, and, to be the honest, I wasn't a big fan of the new generation of players.

"A lot of them were more interested in how many deals they were doing on the side, through sponsorship and getting their heads on the television, than actually playing for the national team."

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FFA TV keeps you up to date with the latest from the Socceroos AFC Asian Cup camp. More videos: www. socceroos .com.au/videos.

In an extract from his forthcoming book, The Death and Life of Australian Soccer, Joe Gorman delves into the striker’s profound connection to Melbourne Croatia.

The World Cup loss to Italy in 2006 was painful but Viduka remains philosophical about the manner of that defeat, when Fabio Grosso collapsed under a late Neill challenge and Francesco Totti converted a last minute penalty to give the Azzurri a 1-0 win.

"It definitely wasn't a penalty. Lucas went for the ball and [Grosso] played the leg," Viduka said.

"It happens and there's nothing we could do. Had we got to extra time, maybe we could have won. Or the luck of penalties? Football is full of drama and that was another chapter."

He still feels passionately about the game in his homeland, particularly junior development.

"There's a big gap for junior development [and] I think that's a big problem. If you look 10, 15, 20 years ago we had a lot of big players in big clubs in big leagues [as well as fringe players]," he said.

"When they set up the A-League they concentrated more on getting the league set up ... but the junior system, they didn't pay enough attention to [it]."

It was while he was starring at Leeds that Viduka attracted the attention of two of the giants of world football, Manchester United and AC Milan. He said he almost ended up at the San Siro.

"In the end, Leeds didn't want to sell. And that was that. I was a huge AC Milan fan. They were my favourite team. It just wasn't to be," he said.

But old loyalties lie strong with Viduka. When ESPN interviewer Michael Cain asked him what his favourite game was - a World Cup win, the four goals against Liverpool - he looked all the way back to his childhood.

"I had games kicking the ball in the backyard with my old man, I would say that is the answer," Viduka said.

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