If ever there was to be a person named as the modern patriarch of Australian football, you would go no further than Les Scheinflug, such has been his enormous contribution and legacy to the game.
For those privileged to witness the important playing role he played in the legendary Sydney Prague FC team from the late 1950’s into the early 60’s when he played with immortals like Jaros, Saghi, Tamandl, Baumgartner, Lord and Herbert and Erwin Ninaus, the memories keep flooding back.
Being captain of our first World Cup participation in 1965 , followed by a successful club coaching career which led to his enormous success as the head of national youth football from 1981-1999 were major highlights of his life in football.
However, Les Scheinflug still follows the game closely and has alot to offer, if only the powers that be would recognise this fact and invite him to be involved.
In this interview with Roger Sleeman, Les Scheinflug voices his opinions about the administration of the game, youth development, the national team, the A-League and how the state of football could be improved in the future.
FFA Chairman, Steven Lowy, was quoted after the recent FFA AGM, “the game could go back to the dark days before the creation of the FFA when the game was run by the clubs”, and,” those who voted against progress today want the game to go back to the dark days”.
What is your comment?
This is a cheap shot by Mr. Lowy because he doesn’t know the shape of the ball.
The FFA receives large financial assistance from government today and billionaires own A-League clubs but when I was playing the game was run on the smell of an oil rag.
However, we still managed to draw crowds of 15,000 to Ampol Cup matches in the early 60’s.
So what has Mr. Lowy really done since he became chairman?
In playing terms, the 2006 World Cup squad was produced by “old soccer people”and they’re wondering why no young players are coming through after the AIS and state academies were dismantled
What has the FFA produced in new talent?
Have the Lowy regimes taken the game forward and is it in better shape?
Or was it bound to fail with the predominance of non-football people in its ranks?
When you consider football coaches have to pay $10,000 to undertake the Pro Diploma and there is no guarantee of work, the administration has to be made accountable.
Also, when young elite players have to pay between $1000- 5000 to play when families can’t afford it, the game is hardly in great shape.
The non- football people employed in our game don’t understand it.
If you put ARL people into English football they wouldn’t be accepted as it just wouldn’t work.
Does Steven Lowy get a weekly report on what each FFA employee is doing and furthermore, a financial statement from David Gallop, tracing where money is being spent?
Could you compare the standard of football in the NSL with the A-League?
Players may be fitter today but we had more class players, produced better players and brought in better imports.
We’re bringing in second rate coaches from Belgium and Holland who could hardly get a job in Europe and we’re opening our arms to them and paying out big money.
Our local coaches, who don’t get opportunities.
Players are fitter but there is no beautiful Australian attacking style which has been crucified by those so called experts who want to copy from the Dutch and play from the back without the necessary skill.
Ideally, we need to raise skill levels again and incorporate technical changes, rather than going from one error to another.
The problem is, Head Office doesn’t understand football so they can’t correct the charletons who have been appointed from overseas.
What is your opinion of the national team setup, and do we have the players and coaches to achieve reasonable results in Russia?
Ange Postecoglou ran away at the right time because he didn’t have a strong enough squad.
So why employ an overseas coach and waste money, particularly for a team which I predict will be knocked out in the first round.
The job should be given to a local coach, rather than one from overseas who can’t get a job in Europe.
You presided over our most successful years in youth football from 1981-1999.
Where are we going wrong with such mediocre results since that era?
I’ll repeat again, the people currently running the game have no background and hired the wrong coaches.
These appointments were not made with the support of an expert committee so these coaches came to Australia with their own ideas and knowledge of local requirements.
When the AIS existed we had 20-26 top players who were worked with on a daily basis and the state academies funnelled a large group of players through to the AIS so we were eventually working with the top 50 young players in the country.
The FFA destroyed this successful system so more money could be thrown at the national team, at the expense of youth development.
What impact has Eric Abrams, the FFA Technical Director, had on Australian football since he commenced his role in September, 2014?
I call him the” Belgian Ghost” because you never see him, never see anything from him, never see him on television or on the park educating coaches and players and just ask the coaches whether they ever see him and they say no.
They should send him back to Europe.
Can you explain the appointment of Josep Gombau ahead of Hayden Foxe as coach of the Wanderers when you consider Gombau retired from playing at the age of 16 and Foxe had a distinguished playing career overseas and in Australia?
Paul Lederer has made a big mistake here and he should go back to the meat trade.
Gombeau’s success in winning two Hong Kong championships is akin to winning an NPL 2 title.
Gombau has nothing to boast about apart from winning a title with Adelaide United because he was able to recruit some good Spanish players like Cirio, Sanchez and Isaias and benefited from the young players who were already in his squad.
To choose him ahead of Hayden Foxe, a former Joey, Olyroo and Socceroo who had a successful career overseas is diabolical, particularly when he didn’t lose a match in the three matches he was in command after Tony Popovic left the club.
Foxe should be given the chance on a longer term basis because Gombau would never get a job in Europe.
Are marquee players strengthening the A-League, or should we be focussing on producing our own players with the budgets available?
When I was a raw 17 year old in 1st grade at Sydney Prague FC in the late 50’s, I thought I had invented the game until the great Austrians, Jaros, Baumgartner and the Ninaus brothers told me to pass the ball.
Young players will do well but they must be progressively added to squads.
There are some good marquee players in the A- League, particularly the Sydney FC Pole, Mierzejewski, who is an excellent one touch player, can play either precise, short and long balls and always knows where his next position will be either after he lays the ball off or when he is playing off the ball.
Cejudo, the Wanderers midfielder, is also a great capture for the A- League with his close control, creative ability in bringing other players into the game and his obvious finishing ability which was highlighted in his goal against Central Coast last Saturday.
Every team is playing defensive, counter attacking football so you need intelligent players like this to work with the “workers” and the “tacklers”.
Unfortunately, there are also some marquees who are getting big money and not producing which is where the system is partly failing.
Who should get the Socceroo job?
Tell Steven Lowy to invite me to discuss this matter with him and I would recommend a local coach be appointed to be assisted by the likes of Ante Milicic, Hayden Foxe and Kevin Muscat who would all benefit immensely from the World Cup experience.
I don’t agree with selecting a foreign coach who wouldn’t be familiar with the local scene and would merely be in for a quick dollar and a good time.
How do you see the future of the game?
I believe Steven Lowy should resign and all the non-football people employed in the game should leave with him.
Start getting football people back into the game, like in FIFA where Marco van Basten is now employed in a major youth development role.
We must stop charging former professional players so much to gain their coaching badges because we’re losing so much expertise.
The introduction of relegation and promotion has to be a major priority and young players must be given a chance.
I’m happy, at no cost, to join an advisory committee of past players to provide some direction for the game.
The FFA and the state bodies need to recognise past players and pay them the respect they deserve.
In my case, how many times have we qualified for World Youth final series since I left the national coaching scene?