Another old story about Ned Zelic

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Another old story about Ned Zelic

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The writer unleashes on Ned Zelic after the 2nd leg of Australia v Uruguay.

Honourable Mention for clanger of the second leg: Ned Zelic – Much has been written about the career path of this highly gifted, but ultimately, unAustralian, footballer. Having made his debut in the NSL with Sydney Olympic as the definitive libero, a defensive player with silky skills and an innate capacity to move forward when the tempo of the game enabled him to make that defense-splitting pass or shoot that long range goal, Zelic soon rightly carved out a reputation that would see him earmarked as a future captain of Australia, but even more so, as Australia’s first truly world class player. His destiny looked like it was going to be fully consummated on that fateful day in Utrecht against the Dutch in THAT Olympic qualifier, when he scored two goals in the 2-2 draw that got the Olyroos through to the 1992 Olympics.

That second goal, a stupendous effort from the touchline that left the Dutch goalkeeper, Edwin van der Sar (yes, the same Edwin van der Sar that plays for Manchester United, has won over 100 full Dutch caps etc, etc) scratching his head in disbelief, was indicative of the heights Zelic’s career could have attained. The Dutch team that Zelic almost single-handedly destroyed included the de Boer twins, Dean Gorre and Marc Overmars, among others, all world class internationals.

Post-Olympics, Zelic found himself at one of the power clubs of Europe, Borussia Dortmund. But living off the glory of a wonder goal in Utrecht and a fine Olympic campaign does not keep you at a club like Borussia Dortmund forever. And the true Zelic began to appear - the arrogant, egocentric Zelic, the Zelic who thought that those around him were not of his calibre; Dortmund shipped him off to QPR, and three years later won their Champions League trophy and barely missed him; QPR shipped him off because the hard grounds of boggy London hurt his knees (no bull), and then, like a stray Alsatian, was invited to play at numerous other clubs in Germany, Japan and Europe because of his undoubted pedigree but with little lasting success, because like all stray dogs, Zelic had no sense of loyalty left, no sense of pride.

The final straw came not when he refused to play for Farina (I don’t blame him for that, neither would I), but when he claimed that he should have chosen Croatia rather than Australia as his national team of choice. A fatal error of judgement, a mistake he would surely rue for the rest of his life. That other Aussies have taken the Croatian path has been well documented (i.e. Joe Simunic, Ante Seric being the two most high profile cases, whilst Joe Didulica couldn’t get a game for Australia anyway) but there’d be no sour grapes from Aussie fans towards those players, and certainly no promises would have been made to them had they stuck with the green and gold – the decision has been made, and they’ve moved on to fine careers. Zelic, on the other hand, had been feted as an Australian champion, a hero – there was a sense of obligation which he preferred to ignore. Yet when the going got a bit tough, and at the height of his petulance, he announced to the world that he would rather colbert Australia than stick it out with the green and gold.

Watching the SBS post-match coverage of that momentous second leg was a lesson to all that hubris and conceit, no matter what sort of talent is attached to it, is no match for humility and strength of character. That unflappable legend of the world game, Mr Phudball himself, Les Murray, resplendent in his natty Italian suit and stylish, Richie Benaud-style white hair, was seated next to Ned Zelic (centre of picture) and Craig Foster (right of picture). Craig Foster was beaming, with his George Clooney/Richard Gere grey hair beautifully highlighted, and simply gushing at the heights those Australian heroes had reached, congratulating one of his ex-teammates (Tony Vidmar) for finally making it. He couldn’t speak highly enough of Vince Grella, whose midfield role was similar to the one Foster would have played in his prime. You see, Foster too had been a failed Socceroo, but not through want of trying. A midfield workhorse with perhaps not the same level of talent as a Kewell or a Zelic, Fozzie made a big impact in the NSL with Adelaide City before moving to Palace in the English League 1. Foster is universally admired for his work ethic and professionalism as a player – his naked ecstasy at Aloisi’s nail in the coffin of Australian footballing failure was one of the great joys of the night – the sign of a man whose dreams had, in some small part, been consummated.

Contrast that with the dishevelled carcass of a soul that was Ned Zelic. Tie undone, suit untidy, unshaven; speaking in a dull, dismal monotone that betrayed his own sense of emptiness and inner futility. On the happiest night of Australian football there will ever be until the World Cup finds residence on these shores for four years, (probably another 32 years from now) all the wretched wannabe colberter of Australia could say was: ‘I don’t believe it.’ Zelic, a 34 year old coodabeen, in a state of utter disbelief, psychologically crushed by the reality that Australia (surprise, surprise) had done it without him. If he had not let his own pride destroy what looked like being the dream career, there was probably every chance of Zelic, whilst probably not being in the first XI, at least being in Hiddink’s squad (especially given the defensive fragilities afore-mentioned), and with it, a chance of some game time come Germany 2006, opponents/fitness/tactics permitting. But Zelic, like all colberters, has now learned the hard way the truth of’s favourite self-evident aphorism: that colberting never pays.

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Re: Another old story about Ned Zelic

Post by rosco »

Pretty cutting synopsis.
Thank God we're all different - your comparison of Fozzie and Zelic on that night are gold.

Too true "...hubris and conceit, no matter what sort of talent is attached to it, is no match for humility and strength of character."

A question ...

From WordNet (r) 2.0 :

n : butter creamed with parsley and tarragon and beef extract
[syn: Colbert butter]

Whats your definition of colbert?


Amber P.
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Re: Another old story about Ned Zelic

Post by Amber P. »

Really enjoyed today match as it was so much fun to watch this match. There were two specific reasons for me to watch this match one was my favorite player and second it was the weekend. The australianwritings org update is quite interesting and useful.

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