Opinion

Muscat puts Australian coaching in European shop window

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Kevin Muscat will be flying the flag for Australian coaches when he leads his new team Sint-Truiden into the next Belgian Pro League season.

Muscat, 46, became the first Australian coach to take charge of a senior men's team in Europe when he agreed terms with the unfashionable club last week.

Many Australian footballers have shown what they can do in Europe ever since striker Eddie Krncevic blazed a trail for his countrymen when he took his scoring boots to Yugoslavia in the early 1980s, before making a name for himself with Belgian giants Anderlecht in the latter part of the decade.

David Mitchell, Frank Farina, Ned Zelic, Paul Okon, Craig Moore, Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill, Mark Schwarzer, Mark Bresciano, Vince Grella, Scott Chipperfield, Jason Culina - the list is endless - and more recently Mat Ryan, Tom Rogic and Aaron Mooy have enhanced Australia's reputation for producing reliable footballers with the quality and mentality to succeed.

They bravely left their comfort zones to challenge themselves against the best and passed their tests with flying colours.

But when it comes to coaching, there exists a big question mark.

The reason is because no one from down under has managed to get a senior gig in such a reputable football country as Belgium, mainly due to Europe's failure to recognise Asian Football Confederation coaching badges.

The Belgians, incidentally, are ranked No.1 in FIFA's world rankings.

Muscat will have an added responsibility of showcasing Australian coaching when he takes on Sint-Truiden with the help of fellow Australian Luc Trani.

He will make his dugout debut when the Pro League kicks off in early August.

Muscat, who spent 10 years in Britain as a defender before coming home in 2005, has been around long enough to know that playing or coaching in Europe is like swimming in a pool of sharks.

Only last week he was telling me that he will need to be seen as much better than a local if he is to survive and gain respect in a country that has produced many top-class coaches.

"They will stick together and look after their own in every shape and form, I've already noticed that," Muscat said.

"But once you gain their respect you would be able to use that as a positive."

Australian fans - and certainly Muscat's fellow coaches - will be following his progress with the same level of interest as that shown in former Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou after he took charge of Yokohama F. Marinos and led them to the J1 League title last year.

Same as Krncevic's exploits four decades ago encouraged Europeans to put more trust in Aussie footballers, if Muscat does well in Belgium and makes Sint-Truiden a force to be reckoned with, more clubs might show an interest in our coaching fraternity.

"We're delighted for Kevin who is a highly valued member of the FCA and a great advocate for the work we are doing and we wish him all the best because he has set an example for all of our coaches who have ambitions to work abroad," Football Coaches Australia president Phil Moss said.

"There are limited opportunities for Australian coaches in the A-League so when Kevin does well in such a respected league as Belgium's he would widen the net by making Europeans aware of what we can do."

Sint-Truiden is Muscat's second club as a senior coach. He led Melbourne Victory to the A-League Championship in 2015 and 2017.