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Vukovic's brain snap and the coming of Renaudinho

25 February 2008-Jesse Fink

The prospect of Central Coast Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic facing a potential lifetime ban from football for allegedly manhandling referee Mark Shield in the final minutes of Sunday’s A-League Grand Final is firstly outrageous and secondly a tragedy of epic proportions for the future of the game in this country.

The kid is our next Socceroos No. 1 and a fierce competitor. If he touched Shield in any way, he's an idiot, but not a criminal.

Vukovic was right to be spitting chips that James Holland's blatant last-gasp handball in the box wasn't picked up by any of the match officials. It was pretty bloody obvious.

You would expect a whistleblower of Shield's supposed standing in the international game to sniff out these sorts of goalmouth transgressions like Robert Parker does an inferior shiraz, but in the biggest game of the year, at the very climax of the game, he failed. It was a career killer.

The problem, as I see it, is the wrong career is getting cut short.

The best move Football Federation Australia could make is to petition FIFA to relax its opposition to video referees adjudicating on such contentious moments. Video replays work in rugby league, they are used judiciously in cricket, and in football, where more muggings go on during corner kicks than your typical Saturday night in Naples, they are sorely needed.

Simply saying we need better assistant referees or referees is a cop-out.

Human beings, no matter how highly trained or visually acute, are unreliable. A strategically placed camera is less so. You can be assured defenders the world over would change their modus operandi (well-timed scrotum squeezes, sly punches) if they knew they were being properly watched.

So a hollow sort of victory to the Newcastle Jets, and I say that as a long-time Jets fan. They were comfortably the better team on the day and deserved to win, and I still think Ante Covic, as in-form as he is, could have stopped John Aloisi's penalty - that's assuming the poor bloke can still kick straight.

But the end of the match tarnished the result and this will be one championship that Mariners fans will rightly feel was robbed from them.

Also of interest to Half-Time Orange this week was Houston Dynamo's hellfire shellacking of Sydney FC in the inaugural Pan-Pacific Championship in Hawaii.

I'm always curious to see how any Australian club fares in international competition, be it the FIFA Club World Cup or the Asian Champions League or whatever, yet sadly all we learned from this sorry escapade is Pim Verbeek was probably right to dump on the A-League after all.

Over at FourFourTwo, reporter Aidan Ormond, compiling a minute-by-minute match log at the crime scene in Honolulu, was moved to call it "dismal" and an "inept ordeal".

After 45 minutes he typed with paternal frustration: "The 3-0 scoreline is an accurate reflection of an appalling first half from Sydney - the worst I've seen. In front of a whole lot of international journalists, we look like amateurs."

What made the final result infinitely more embarrassing, however, was John Kosmina's whimpering and comical comment after the match that his team had been undone by a "long season"; this after he'd told the press earlier in the week that "we're not here for a holiday".

How this man was given a two-year contract by the Sydney FC board before he'd failed to get the club to the Grand Final still defies rational explanation. He not only failed to get them there but, as we saw against Queensland Roar in the finals, got them playing like donkeys.

I caught Sydney's second match in the PPC after the A-League Grand Final and it must have been an improvement of sorts, as they managed to actually score a goal, a screamer off the boot of renowned target man (cough) Brendan Renaud, a 34-year-old journeyman full-back who was Sydney's most incisive attacking option all night at the Aloha Stadium.

Who needs Juninho when you've got Renaudinho?

Speaking of the Little Fella, I had the pleasure of briefly meeting him last week and he was hardly blown away by Sydney's determination to hang on to him. He's moved out of his house in the inner west and decamped back to Brazil to await word of Sydney's final offer, which, if it comes, is expected to be well below his asking price this season.

Juninho is desperate to stay in Australia but equally isn't going to sell himself short. He's ruled out moving to an Asian league for family reasons and is most likely to return permanently to Brazil if Sydney doesn't table a decent offer.

The stats say he played 15 times for Sydney in "Version 3.0" and for a million bucks some accountants will count that as a poor return, but as far as I'm concerned he's been the club's standout player every time he's got on the pitch.

If Juninho goes, he'll be a huge loss to the A-League. World Cup winners don't come along every day. And who's going to slot those magic through-balls for Alex Brosque to stuff up?

Renaudinho, don't retire… a playmaker vacancy might just be opening up.

Tombides loses his fight with cancer

The Australian football community is mourning the loss of Australia youth international Dylan Tombides, who passed away on Friday 18 April after a long battle with cancer. He was aged 20.


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