Despite being proof that the grassroots clubs can make it to the final stages of the FFA Cup, Bentleigh Greens coach John Anastasiadis has called for the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) to work on scheduling the competition better next year.
Anastasiadis would like to see a fairer playing field to better accommodate the league seasons of the A-League and the lower leagues.
Playing the semi-final match last Tuesday against Perth Glory, Anastasiadis had to field a depleted team eight weeks after the Greens had finished their season.
Perth Glory, on the other hand, has the luxury of being in the swing of round five of the A-League, while also reaping the rewards of having full-time staff, players and better grounds to train.
“It’ll be a tough ask for any team to keep all of its players all this way, I don’t know how we did it but we did,” Anastasiadis tells Neos Kosmos.
“Keeping them motivated, trying to find friendly games, while the A-League gets in full motion, everyone’s fit and ready.
“It’ll be a very hard ask for any team to make the final if we still have this scheduling.”
A spokesperson for the FFA told Neos Kosmos that a review into scheduling for next year’s FFA Cup was already underway and is still ongoing.
They said they are aware of the difficulties the grassroots teams faced in playing for 11 months of the year and will be looking at changing scheduling to create a fairer playing field.
Anastasiadis mentioned having the quarter finals played in October and the semi-finals and final could be played in February the following year as a tentative solution, but understands other factors need to be considered.
“I think we’ve done well as the guinea pigs,” he says, considering Bentleigh’s campaign.
The club were the heroes of the Tuesday match despite losing 3-0 to the Glory. Fans had to be turned away as Kingston Heath was at capacity.
A troop of volunteers churned out the Bentleigh Green’s famous souvlaki while the Green’s didn’t fail to impress.
The team started tentatively, but eventually got its confidence in the second half where things could have gone their way if certain referee calls were made.
“Maybe we deserved a goal if we had got one, 2-1, it could have been a different ball game,” Anastasiadis says.
“Everything, the crowd lifts you, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Now, the club will have about two weeks off before pre-season begins, not much of a break for either the coach or the players.
Currently Anastasiadis is looking to keep his players staying put while looking for further talent. It’s a difficult time for him, as he’s not one that likes to bargain.
“One player might have two or three teams after him and I hate the bargaining thing,” he says.
Certainly, with the added exposure, Bentleigh Greens isn’t short of players lining up at their door for inclusion.
Anastasiadis is keen to keep his line-up relatively unchanged, but knows there are still weaknesses that need addressing.
He’s already building on keeping the gloss of the FFA Cup shining.
“I hope Bentleigh Greens aren’t just remembered for the nice souvlaki, but the good football that we play,” he says with a laugh.