Monday, March 12, 2007

Barbieri playing in the Foxtel Cup

Señor Random left a comment on this blog while I was on my post-A-League-final/going-back-to-uni hiatus regarding Melissa Barbieri playing in the Foxtel Cup Reserves.

I exhausted my commentary on the Melbourne Victory forum, but I don’t think I ever explicity said how I felt about a woman playing in the men’s league. I only ended up posting my thoughts on the forum because I thought the boys were being short-sighted, even though I agree with them on the general concept that Barbieri shouldn’t be playing in the men’s league.

Yes, you read that right.


Football is a team event. The development of a player is dependent on their surroundings. In this sense, a ‘keeper can only be pushed as far as the opposition pushes them. The depth of quality in the Women’s Premier League isn’t all that far – so Barbieri has no way to be pushed to become a better player.

She even tried playing for the Preston Lions one season in an attempt to get more practice in game situations. While playing for her ‘true’ club, Box Hill Inter, she was hardly pushed to perform at her best because of the strength of the Box Hill team. Cranbourne (now Casey) Comets would have been the only real opposition.

So I understand the reasoning beching wanting to play in the men’s league, and I can understand why Matildas coaching staff, and possibly sponsors would want this to happen. I’ll admit if I was as her standard, it would be something that I’d pursue – although I’d take a different approach.

I’ll digress from the point here, but I think it will help the handful of readers understand where I’m coming from.

Playing with the men was something that I had more or less experienced in my short amateur goalkeeping career. The clubs that I’ve played at are irrelevant, but I’ll name them simply not to confuse myself and to give credit where it’s due to the goalkeeping coaches – some who I have forgotten their names. (I’m really REALLY bad with names.)

One of my first clubs was Mitcham – local club and the men played at Provisional League 2. Not one of the top leagues in Victoria, and perhaps the players aren’t as gifted as those that play Premier League, but very competitive nonetheless. While the goalkeeping coach that the club had there for a little while didn’t improve me technically like a later coach would, training with the guys increased my confidence dramatically. If you can save a decent hit by a guy, or have the confidence to take them one, you’ll be right with the women. Confidence does wonders for a goalkeeper – and I’m sure training with the guys helped me come out of my shell. To the outsider (i.e. non-‘keeper), I’m sure that was the season that s/he would declare that I had a screw loose.

A couple of years later, I played part of a season at Doncaster. Their women’s State 1 team had an average age of 15 or 16, was brand spanking new to football, and unsurprisingly was getting spanked by the opposition. There, they had a great goalkeeping coach (I’ve gushed about him elsewhere on this blog, but I won’t name him because I can’t remember the name of the Mitcham ‘keeping ‘coach’, so it wouldn’t be fair) and I trained with the State League 2 Men’s team.

Not only was Mark (oh, smeg it!) great, but training with the State 2 guys was an awesome experience. They were competitive during training, which pushed me, but they also looked after me, giving the appropriate feedback and advice when I needed it. When I completely stuffed up they would explain what I should have done, encouraged me to be more aggressive and to tell them where I wanted them positioned. That season was great for me in terms of development as a goalkeeper.

Bringing it back to Barbieri, I think she can get what she needs by training with the guys and perhaps by playing friendlies against men. Perhaps she has already tried it and found there to be no other way for her to become a better player than by joining a men’s Premier League team. But, by playing in the reserves league she has effectively taken the place of a promising youth.

I know she was cleared to play on a Friday afternnon, and played that very evening. So I really do feel for the reserves ‘keepers who’d been at pre-season, probably working their arses off, and then only one of them gets a chance to play – and even then, for only 45 minutes.

Regardless of how I feel about it, it’s been done now and best of luck to her. However I wish more luck to the kids* who are now not playing in the league that they deserve to.

*Reserves is U/21, so they’re younger than me, even if it’s only slightly. :oP

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ummm... back again

This might interest you too. I read this ages ago and it made good sense to me.

Give Waynetta Rooney a chance by Natalie Bennett - Guardian Unlimited

It is time to break down the last form of sporting apartheid and embrace unisex cricket, football and even rugby.