Preparations: Brett Emerton training with the A-League All-Stars before Saturday’s clash with Manchester United. Photo: Anthony JohnsonThe A-League All Stars appear all smiles in front of the cameras as they prepare for their historic clash against Manchester United but there was a tense undertone throughout the squad on day one because of long-held and bitter rivalries, says Thomas Broich.
The Brisbane Roar playmaker said many of the players struggled to put aside their personal grudges from club level upon arrival in camp, which threatened their ability to gel as a team. The expectation that past feuds would be forgiven or forgotten was not immediately adopted by all, and the 32-year-old German held early fears for team morale because of the initial difficulties in communicating.
“We’ve developed some rivalries over the years, and the first few days felt a bit strange, all of a sudden we’re meant to be friends and take on the biggest team in world football,” Broich said. “But we’ve done well, we’ve overcome those past experiences and we’re really getting along well now. We’ve played some grand finals, and some red cards and penalties were handed out. The guys are really competitive, and before that we didn’t really know each other. Well, some did but I didn’t really know anyone. But, that’s changed over the week and we’re really getting on well now.”
The atmosphere around the lunch table on their first day together was not only quiet, but tense as the likes of confrontational striker Besart Berisha broke bread with several of the hard-nosed defenders he might have left a lasting impression on. Conversations between past grand final opponents and other adversaries were initially forced, but through the rigours of training they became more natural and jovial. Talking after their fifth day together, Broich said the excitement of playing against the English Premier League champions helped them settle past scores and strengthen team unity.
“Yeah, compared to now it definitely was [tense], it took us a while to warm up but it happened really quickly,” Broich said. “We’re really getting there, it’s looking better every day at training. It took a while to get to know each other and develop a football understanding, but we’re travelling quite well and I’m really looking forward to playing Man U.”
Despite the cold start to life within the All Stars, Broich believes it is an event that must become an annual fixture and not simply because of the profile of the showcase. With some of the best players of the league training together for a week, the standard of football for that period will trickle down to each club as players return.
“I guess even for the clubs it’s going to be really beneficial because of whatever you learn here, whatever experiences you get here you take it back home to the clubs. You might act a bit more professional, you might take a few things like a diet that one of the boys is doing back home or some things at training that we’re doing. It’s an education process as well,” Broich said.
The non-attendance of some of the league’s biggest names, notably marquee players Alessandro del Piero, Shinji Ono and Emile Heskey, made some people sceptical about the timing of the All Stars event but Broich hit back at critics, saying he was proud to be among the league’s elite.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.