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Locked down, not out: Teenage pro prepares for post-pandemic

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BRISBANE, Australia — He caught the attention of Robbie Fowler, a man revered by some, who gave him a shot at turning pro while still in high school.

That kind of faith ensured Jordan Courtney-Perkins an A-League start last November, and earned him a record as the youngest Brisbane Roar player to make a starting debut in Australia’s top-flight competition.

He quit school after missing so many days late in 2019 to play soccer, including the Under-17 World Cup in Brazil.

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Now there’s no soccer, and no school – at least not for this 17-year-old defender.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the suspension of the A-League in mid-March and, like many clubs around the country, that resulted in Roar players and staff being stood down during the lockdown.

“A lot of things that the coronavirus has caused are terrible things, but there are some positives I can take out of it – like you can reflect on things, really think,” Courtney-Perkins said. “The whole football world and transfers, money and everything, is frozen at the moment.

“It definitely makes you think how you have to take opportunities when they’re there – don’t mess around. This has definitely heightened that.”

There are signs the league will resume in August, but in the meantime Courtney-Perkins is training and working out mostly on his own, living with his parents. He’s keeping in virtual contact with the club, with trainers and teammates and with Fowler, who is back in England but keeping in touch by video and electronic means.

After playing 379 games and scoring 163 goals in the Premier League, mostly at Liverpool, Fowler played a season at the now-defunct North Queensland Fury in 2009-10 and then Perth Glory in 2010-11 in Australia. He returned to Australia in April last year to take over as manager at the Roar on a two-year contract.

And he’s having a big influence, along with technical director Tony Grant, on developing teenage players, including Courtney-Perkins and Izaack Powell, who were both in the Australian Under-17 World Cup squad.

“The Gaffer. Yeah, he’s a good guy. It’s pretty crazy to be playing under a bloke that people call ‘God,'” Courtney-Perkins said, speaking of the nickname the Anfield faithful gave to Fowler. “He’s got a mentality that if you’re good enough, you’ll play. He knows for him on a personal level, in his career, age didn’t matter for him.”

The Roar went on a roll before the lock down, moving up to fourth in the standings and into playoff contention.

After his promising start, Courtney-Perkins injured his knee and went 12 weeks without playing a full 90-minute match, almost an eternity in teen time. But it helped crystallize his life choice of football over school. He’s confident this bigger, more global enforced break from the game isn’t going to hurt him.

“I’m very set on one thing. Mum and Dad will constantly remind me, you know, (life) it’s not just football,” he said. “But I’m just so hell bent on this is what I want.”

The 12 weeks off, he decided, would give him time in the gym and to get fit in other ways “to come back a bigger, better player.” He worked his way back to working with the senior squad.

“I’m pretty good at seeing the positives out of a dim situation,” he said.

The clubs, Football Federation Australia and the player unions have been active in player welfare, asking for daily diaries for personal and training data updates and keeping them connected in order to stay healthy mentally and physically.

Simon Colosimo, the FIFpro deputy general secretary, played for Australia and in Europe in a professional career that started in his teens. His advice for Courtney-Perkins, and for all young pros like him who dream of playing in the world’s biggest leagues, is to value every minute with coaches and senior players because the pandemic just demonstrates how quickly things can change.”

“Every moment you get to have with them builds your football career,” Colosimo said. “A lot of things that are falling into place (now), you can’t influence. What he can do is continue to train hard, work hard. Make sure he finds that right balance.”

Courtney-Perkins has no regrets about leaving school early, although he is doing a diploma that will set him up for work after football – a career change he hopes will be “about 20 years” away.

“I’m loving every minute of it,” he said. “Although sometimes it could be challenging, or people look at you a little bit crazy, like ’one in a million make that career happen.’ But I’m confident in myself because when I want something I’m going to do everything in my power to get it.”

Australia’s A-League suspended until April 22

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SYDNEY — Australian soccer’s A-League has suspended its season indefinitely, bringing an end to all professional football competitions in Australia and New Zealand until the coronavirus pandemic passes.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s Hudson-Odoi “feeling fine and back to his usual self” ]

Football Federation Australia chief executive James Johnson announced the decision Tuesday, saying the latest measures imposed by the federal government made it impossible for the A-League to continue. The league had only a few regular-season rounds remaining before the playoffs. Johnson said the postponement will be reviewed on April 22.

“As a national competition played in all parts of Australia, as well as New Zealand, mission complicated became mission impossible,” Johnson said.

He remained optimistic the season could resume and said the postponement likely was “heartbreaking” for players, clubs and fans. All soccer in Australia from community to professional level has now been halted.

[ MORE: Transfer rumors: Aubameyang to Man United, Skriniar to Man City ]

“We will feel this,” Johnson said. “We will feel the financial pressure on the game at all levels. The game will survive. Will we need to make changes, be different? I say yes.”

The multi-national Super Rugby competition suspended its season last week and attempts in Australia and New Zealand to create domestic competitions for their teams have been put on hold.

Australian rules’ Australian Football League suspended its season Sunday after only one round. The National Rugby League followed suit on Monday after two rounds. In each case government restrictions on national and international travel, on public gatherings and non-essential activities made continuing untenable.

VIDEO: Sydney derby ends even as A-League continues

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The Sydney Derby ended in a 1-1 draw in Australia’s A-League continued on Saturday.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

One of the only games on the planet took place in an empty stadium as the crosstown rivals locked horns with Sydney FC taking the lead but Western Sydney Wanderers struck late on to grab a point.

Below is a look at what happened at the Bankwest Stadium as Sydney FC remain eight points clear at the top of the table with two games in hand over second-place Melbourne City FC.

WSW are in eighth place on 26 points. Not all A-League games are carrying on amid the coronavirus pandemic but there the Newcastle Jets do host Melbourne City on Monday morning (U.S. time) and a full slate of games is scheduled for next weekend.

If you want to get your soccer fix with most leagues in the world postponed right now, the A-League could well be your answer.


Former Reading striker Adam Le Fondre gave Sydney FC the lead in the first half and celebrated by bowing to the empty stands.

But in the last 10 minutes Western Sydney Wanderers made it 1-1 as Kwame Yeboah didn’t know much about but his incredible reactions deflected home this effort.

A-League to continue behind closed doors, condensed season

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Football Federation Australia chairman James Johnson confirmed that the A-League season and W-League final will be played behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Two of 11 A-League clubs are currently in a 14-day isolation, as six rounds of the 2019-20 regular season have yet to be played.

“This is an unprecedented time and extremely complex for the sport and society at large,” Johnson said in a press conference on Monday (Australia time).

Following a game in New Zealand, Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory, now back in Australian soil, are in self-isolation for the next 14 days. Neither team will be able to train during the mandatory quarantine period. The FFA confirmed that games involving both sides in Round 24 and 25 will be rescheduled for a later time.

“The decision to play the remainder of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season, and the Westfield W-League 2020 Grand Final behind closed doors was made in consultation with the clubs and in accordance with the latest Federal Government advice,” Johnson added.

“The health and safety of all members of the football community, including players, coaches, referees, volunteers, administrators and fans continues to be of paramount importance. We will continue to work with the Government and seek advice as the situation changes.”

Despite only having six rounds left (30 games) in the season, the FFA decided against suspending the league all together. Instead, the six remaining regular season rounds will be packed into a three or four week period.

“We have got 30 matches left, six competition rounds to go, it is our intent to compress the rest of that season,” FFA’s head of leagues Greg O’Rourke said. “We have spoken to the clubs. And we’re now speaking to the venues to see whether or not it’s possible for us to complete those six rounds in three to four weeks.

“We will also have all our games behind closed doors,” he added.

More coronavirus connections to soccer:

Australian A-League expansion club to be called MacArthur FC

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SYDNEY (AP) The third Sydney-based club in Australia’s A-League will be known as MacArthur FC.

The club’s logo, featuring a bull, the back, white and ochre colors and name were unveiled in a ceremony at Campbelltown in Sydney’s southwest on Wednesday.

MacArthur will be the 12th team in an expanded top-flight competition from the 2020-21 season after A-League organizers decided last December to add two clubs.

Sydney FC was a foundation club in the relaunched A-League and won the first premiership title in 2006. Western Sydney Wanderers joined the competition in 2012.

A third club from Melbourne, Western United, is set to join the competition next season, joining four-time champion Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City in the national top flight.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports