Osieck’s about as good as we can get

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

I logged onto Twitter this morning and immediately got bombarded with news of a 4pm announcement by Football Federation Australia (FFA) regarding the next man to lead the Socceroos.  From there the names and rumours spilled.  I trawled the usual suspects, from website to website, trying to establish who was in the running.

Names like Koeman, Le Guen, Pekerman and even Martin O’Neill were thrown around.  No one was prepared to say for sure but my more credible sources were suggesting a “no-name German” was the frontrunner.

A little Portuguese-Australian fellow by the name of Vitor Sobral, one of the good eggs at SBS, had mentioned Holger Osieck.  The name was familiar, you see, I was a huge West Germany fan as a kid.  Osieck was Franz Beckenbauer’s assistant during the 1990 World Cup in Italy.  As a receptive nine-year-old, I remember him in his red sweater jumping all over the Kaiser when the final whistle blew and the Germans causing an upset over Diego Maradona’s, Argentina.

Italia ’90 certainly was a long time ago but almost 20 years later I would see him in the flesh.  Osieck brought his Urawa Red Diamonds to play Sydney FC in the AFC Asian Champions League group stages during 2007.  It was an exciting 2-2 draw and a cultural eye-opener for Sydney.  Urawa went on to win the title.

I happened to have a ticket with my old man right behind Osieck and his coaching staff.  My father is a football tragic from way back and loves to give the opposition some real shtick, that’s putting it mildly.  I was stunned at the end of the match.  Osieck came right up to the barrier and told him to “f*** off!”  His English was outstanding.  I just laughed in amazement.

Osieck’s CV is impressive, much more so than Pim Verbeek’s.  But I have no doubt the media will be somewhat harsh on the 61-year-old technician.  Australians expect another Guus Hiddink and unashamedly, want to win the World Cup.  Osieck is about as qualified and accomplished as we should expect for what we offer in return.  Australia is not Europe.

To win the AFC Asian Cup, qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and develop our youth (a mammoth but vitally important task) will take commitment, real commitment.  Not the kind a high-profile authoritarian with a thirst for glory and an open wallet will offer.  Australia needs a teacher, a professional and well-travelled sage to take us forward.  But is this Osieck?

Contrary to Verbeek, Osieck has proved himself to be more than a career assistant coach.  He perhaps overachieved with Canada – a nation not unlike Australia in terms of opportunity – by winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2000.  He coached the Canadian national team for five years after club stints in Germany, Turkey and Japan.

Furthermore, his work with the FIFA Technical Study Group (TSG) since 2004 has obviously impressed FFA Chairman, Frank Lowy and the coaching selection panel (I doubt this panel actually exists) enough to give him a shot.

What strikes me as curious is Lowy’s relationship with Beckenbauer and what Australia stands to gain come December when the 2022 World Cup bid winner is revealed.  Maybe Lowy thinks by giving the Kaiser’s old understudy the reigns he might be able to influence the voters at FIFA.

There’s a certain amount of politicking behind this appointment.  It seems the general public need not know any of the fine details.

It has been rumoured that Osieck will deploy cautious football.  I hope this isn’t true.  What Australia doesn’t need is a pragmatist, another small time protagonist of negative football.  We need a coach built for the modern game of passing and dynamic movement (with and without the ball) not counter-attacking.

Osieck’s experience at youth level, his success in Asia and desire to be based in Australia ticks all the boxes for me.  I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and I hope those that claim to know football do the same.  Let’s not have an overinflated sense of place in world football by shooting this guy down like some did with Verbeek.

Willkommen, Holger!  You brave man.

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