Saturday, 28 December 2013

Alusine Fofanah - A name to remember

Image Courtesy of Quarrie Sports Photography 

I was asked recently to do a piece on a 16 year old from the Foxtel National Youth League team.

At the time I knew little about him but by the end of our chat I found it extremely difficult winding up as each question I asked left me wanting to know more about this humble, polite and intriguing young footballer.

The name would indicate that he’s not from these parts. In fact Alusine Fofanah’s journey just to get to his destination in Western Sydney is longer than most footballers twice or even three times his age.

Alusine is from Sierra Leone; a small country perched high on the western coast of Africa. It carries a dark civil war plagued history and like so many African countries is abundantly rich in gold and diamond deposits. However Sierra Leone still suffers with close to 70% of its population in poverty.

Uncertain of the future, his parents made the tough decision to leave their birthplace in favour of a better life and opportunity for their young family. The decision meant the arduous and brave journey to become refugees and move to Australia coupled with sacrifices that ordinary Australians would struggle contemplating.

Alusine’s parents left their son in his grandparent’s care for close to three years before they could all be together again.

From the ripe old age of six, Alusine’s love of the round ball began after watching the 2006 World Cup semi-final between Portugal and France. It was a young player by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo that caught his eye and implanted a footballing dream that has never been erased.

Alusine has worked tirelessly on his game ever since and continues to do that little bit more each day to realise his dream of living out a professional football life in Europe.

For now he couldn’t be happier living and playing in “the best country in the world” and being part of such a professional club at the Western Sydney Wanderers.

Unlike many players his age, Alusine’s talent was on show at the age of 14 after a successful trial offer materialised with English giants Manchester City last year.

The chance to impress could not have gone any better after converting six goals in two matches with the Under 18 squad. The difficulties with passports and visas saw the chance to part ways with his family too large a burden in the short term.
“The experience playing in Europe was quite surreal and at times I found myself pinching myself whilst trying to keep my feet on the ground”
“I understand I still have a plenty of hard work ahead of me but I am blessed to be working with such fine coaches like Tony Popovic and Trevor Morgan at the Wanderers.”
The biggest challenge that faced Alusine upon arrival to his new country as an 11 year old was the language barrier.
“I had to work extremely hard on my English and it made it that much harder to make friends.”
When asked who has been the biggest influence on his football journey to this point, the answer was heartwarming at the very least.
“I was lucky enough to meet to two great men in George and Tass Markos.
“These two gentlemen have helped support my family and I and continue to do everything in their power to make my life on and off the pitch as easy as possible.
“Their generosity is astounding and their ongoing advice and guidance has kept me grounded, out of trouble and I have matured since knowing them.”

Be sure to take note of this young man’s name, Alusine Fofanah, as he has the potential and drive to be anything in this great game but for now it’s all about the next game the opponent and becoming a better player each and every week.

Western Sydney Wanderers Website Link:

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Our reaction to the World Cup draw

Read the thoughts of our 32 World Cup Nation experts to their country's draw for Brazil.

James Clark 
"Not surprisingly Australia were drawn in a tough “Slow-Death" Group B with Spain, Chile and the Netherlands. The Socceroos have it all to do against the current champions and runners-up from South Africa 2010. On a positive note, we avoided Brazil and France. Fans can now look ahead to enjoying sangria, tapas, Pisco sours, and the odd Heineken with a slab of gouda as we struggle “Down Under” to rise early from our warm beds to take on the world’s best in Brazil."

Keeping it Real: Thomas Manos

After chatting with Thomas Manos you begin to understand how driven the sporting youth of today are.

His willingness to master every aspect of his game begins with his mental approach. Despite a small stature for a goalkeeper, Thomas displays leadership characteristics on the pitch that soon adds inches to his frame.
“I like to make up for my height disadvantage on the pitch by being loud and imposing by dominating the talk from the back,” the Western Sydney Wanderers number one explained."
“I may not have a large physical presence out there but if you watch the Wanderers play you will no doubt hear me communicating with the boys for the entire 90 minutes."
“It is one of my strengths that sets me apart from other keepers”
Since the ripe old age of twelve, Thomas’ love of protecting the eight-yard by eight-foot fortress began after a constant peppering from his cousin in the back yard. His tenacity eventually frustrated his cousin as he began saving more shots than his cousin could convert and so began his love of the glove.

A two-year apprenticeship at Jim Fraser’s International Goalkeepers Academy helped develop a technique that paired with a healthy enthusiasm and natural talent in defending the box.

Thomas’ steely determination to succeed in the football world was recognised last year as a worthy recipient of the Lucas Neill Scholarship. The scholarship helped open doors and allowed Thomas to travel abroad to experience how professional clubs like Bolton Wanderers approach their training regime.
“One thing you notice immediately is the intensity at each and every session."
“We would complete a series of keeping drill circuits lasting for three minutes that would leave you absolutely gasping for air and drain your energy reserves to empty.” 
On his return to the Red and Black Thomas was surprised at the huge gains in his mental approach and focus.
“The training is quite different in the UK with greater emphasis placed on fitness and intensity in sessions over technique.”
The experience has proved invaluable and has only strengthened his resolve in bettering his game.

Thomas is a young player who lives, eats and breathes football. So much so he has put off his University Criminology studies on the backburner for this year to focus solely on realising a dream of winning a Hyundai A-League contract. There is nothing else on Thomas’ radar other than the round ball, for the moment at least.

When asked who is the biggest inspiration in his career to date it was a definitive ringing endorsement to his father Bill.
“He is at all of my games and I love the chats we have in the long car trip home as we talk about what went right and wrong during the course of the match."
 “Together with goalkeeping coach Ron Corry, Dad is there every step of the way and helps in every aspect towards me achieving my football goals on and off the pitch.”
When asked what his ultimate football goal is Thomas isn’t shy in setting the bar nice and high, not unlike the crossbar he so often defends.
“No big deal but I would love to keep for Arsenal in the EPL!” 
Not surprisingly Thomas’ favourite players arguably the best keepers on the planet.

Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas is top dog as Thomas can draw comparisons with their similar height shortcomings.

Mat Ryan is a close second after a recent stint at the Central Coast Mariners opened his eyes to where he needs to be to cut it in the big European football leagues. Mark Schwarzer and Ante Covic round out the elite group.

Be sure to get out and experience tomorrow’s stars in the Foxtel National Youth League as they battle it out for a future spot in the Hyundai A-League. The Wanderers host Sydney FC this Saturday 14 December at Marconi Stadium with kick-off at 5pm.

Thursday, 5 December 2013 "World Cup Nation" Australia


James Clark

A devout follower of everything football from the burgeoning A-League in my native Australia, to the super powers of the Champions League, Premier League, and La Liga. I’m mocked by friends for an Antipodean life governed by Greenwich Mean Time. My football DNA cannot be altered, and I proudly wear my “night-owl” status as a badge of honour.


1. What round will your country reach?
Mixed feelings divide the Aussie football fan landscape but the general consensus is the Socceroos will compete strongly in Brazil. However we’re more likely to enjoy a chartered Qantas flight back across the Pacific and be back Down Under after the completion of the first round group stage.

2. Who does your country most fear?
Brazil or France After being on the wrong side of two damaging 6-0 “friendly” defeats to Brazil and France, we’re hoping to avoid either of these two super powers.

3. Who does your country most hope to draw?
We’d like a group with fence-sitters Switzerland, the spicy South American side Chile and our arch sporting rivals (and a team we’re currently taking the Ashes back from) England.

4. Who is your country's biggest grudge match?
Japan. Australia has a recent sporting rivalry with the “Blue Samurai” that escalated at the 2006 World Cup. That year the south-western German city of Kaiserslautern became a household name here, which rolled off the tongue as easily as Steve Irwin or Vegemite. The 3-1 victory over Japan is forever etched in Australian hearts and minds as it helped to galvanise a sports-mad nation to get behind football. It was also the day when Guus Hiddink received immediate Aussie citizenship rights.

5. What round will England reach?
In Australia the sporting exploits of the “mother” country barely rate a mention, however we love to celebrate your failures, whether it’s singing from the rooftops or behind a light plane in large letters. Many believe that under the guidance of Roy Hodgson, England have the ability to progress to the quarters or possibly the semis with a little rare luck. But England’s run will ultimately end in tears again, and re-open that raw World Cup wound that dates back to 1990.