Opinion

With Australia conquered, Sydney need to become Asian force

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In 1984, Darts great Eric Bristow won his third world championship, prompting the even more legendary commentator Sid Waddell to say “When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer … Bristow's only 27."

While it’s always worth crowbarring such a great line into any article, it is something that Sydney FC should bear in mind.

The boys in blue confirmed over the weekend once again that they are the pre-eminent power of Australian football.

In three out of the last four seasons, Sydney have strolled to the Premier’s Plate and the other time they finished as runner-up, they ended up winning the Grand Final anyway. It is a testament to the team’s consistency at all levels - on and off the pitch.

Sydney are joining other clubs around Asia that are almost always there or thereabouts when the medals are being handed out: Guangzhou Evergrande in China, Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal and South Korean powerhouse Jeonbuk Motors. Such teams are used to lifting trophies at home and also do their utmost to repeat the feat overseas.

This has to be the ambition now for Sydney. Australia has been conquered - where to now? It has to be Asia. There is literally nowhere else to go.

This is not a demand for the team to lift the AFC Champions League trophy. There are hundreds of clubs around the continent vying to enter the competition every year and 32 of them manage it.

There is some serious talent among rivals and then there are other demands - travel, finding a balance between domestic and continental commitments and good old fashioned luck - which mean that the best laid plans can come to nought.

Yet it is time for Sydney to become a force in Asia, it is time for the team that has been the best in the A-League since its inception to make its presence felt in the latter stages, year in and year out.

Prior to this year’s competition, Sydney had appeared five times and made it out of the group stage just once, back in 2016. That journey ended at the last 16. It is a woeful record for the best team in Australia.

It started so thrillingly. The best memory of Sydney, for me at least, is that first home game back in 2007 when a crowd of over 20,000, bolstered in many aspects by the visiting Urawa Reds contingent, saw an exciting 2-2 draw and imagined an exciting future in Asia.

That future has yet to materialise. It was Western Sydney Wanderers, a team without their city rival’s talent or pedigree that have made an impact internationally, winning in 2014. It is Sydney FC that now have the ability - and responsibility - to start challenging and not just once.

Who knows what will happen this year with the Asian Football Confederation trying to finish a tournament that has barely just started in the space of a few weeks in October and November?

From next year however, Sydney have to start making their presence felt. If that means occasionally resting players for A-League games to be fresh for Asia then so be it - the Sky Blues will still finish high up the standings anyway.

The excuses of other teams in Asia having deeper pockets has too often become a lazy crutch for Aussie teams to fall back on after another disappointing continental campaign.

It should be used less in the next couple of years anyway, as there is likely to be less money in Asian football for big-name imports given the effects of the coronavirus.

The best team in Australia should always be competitive with the best in Asia.

It doesn’t mean Sydney have to be lifting the trophy - although there is no reason why that should not be the ambition - but it is time for a club that is dominant in one of Asia's biggest football countries to show that it can be a force to be reckoned with overseas. Asia should now be the priority.

Source SBS The World Game