The Australian has produced a graphic of the A-League season with major gains, losses and a brief comment. 

Malcolm Knox has a long piece with his take on where the A-League is at. It does not say much that is new in relation to crowds and TV viewers last season, but then you get to what appears to be the real point of it: Steven (not Stephen as published by Fairfax) Lowy is a 'billionaire underdog' fighting for the football public, against the apparently evil empire of the UAE's City Football Group, with a little bit of China thrown-in. Please. He concludes that if A-League licenses increase in value - after spending the first two-thirds of the article explaining why they won't in his view - then that “would be money lost to the game”, because again, apparently, the UAE needs Australian money and they're going to take it from us. But that's assuming the A-League “can stop the rot” and start people going to games and watching on TV. Seriously. 

Mr Knox - read this. It deals with facts and evidence from ASIC and the Hong Kong Companies Register. The UAE accounts for 8.7% ownership of A-League clubs. Three other nations have a greater share: yes, China (mostly because of Newcastle Jets and Adelaide United), Indonesia and New Zealand. 

As a postscript, the UAE along with some of its neighbours are fairly criticised for other aspects of its governance, but the idea that, along with other 'foreign owners' of A-League clubs, it merely wants to “take” money away from Australia is one of the sillier points of criticism of the country. On that basis, we would have no overseas companies operating here at all. 

Adelaide United v Sydney FC, 1-1

Scott Galloway scored for the home team right on half-time, while new signing Adam Le Fondre opened his account for the season and salvaged a draw for Sydney FC with a typical poacher's goal. Adelaide looked the better team for most of the game. The crowd was 10,018.

Tom Smithies writes that Sydney FC is a “work in progress”, but their ruthlessness looks “undiminished”. He said the fact that they were “on the back foot all night”, but still managed a draw shows they “will not give up their title lightly”. He says that the team will have some confidence from the result, “facing down” an away game in Adelaide so early in the season. 

Dominc Bossi writes that the draw was “not a continuation of their usual dominance”, lacking pace and precision, and without the 'fear factor' that has been evident in past seasons. 

Melbourne Derby - 7.50pm tonight

For the “master of understatement”, Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce, tonight's match is “just another game” ($). He says, despite the hype, the anticipated appearance of genuine superstar Keisuke Honda, the showing-off of the A-League trophy, and the expected crowd of 40,000, it's just a football match he wants to win. Kevin Muscat says “it's a big occasion”. 

Ray Gatt writes that “history and greatness beckon” Muscat with the potential of a third A-League title, a feat that would see him better Ernie Merrick, Ange Postecoglou and Graham Arnold, as well as back-to-back championships as Postecoglou achieved. But Muscat tells Gatt he cares for none of that as it's “about the collective - the players, the club, the fans ...” and the stats about how many games won, lost or whatever do not define him (don't let Andrew Howe read that!). See The Australian's graphic below on the four most successful coaches in A-League history. 

Nice read here from Emma Kemp talking with Keisuke Honda who is not only a morning person (tick) but says he likes hot springs (ok), Japan has too many rules (ah-hah) but the USA doesn't (Second Amendment anyone?), our football players have learned from rugby and Aussie Rules and play with too much agression which is not needed (pass), and Japanese heroes don't cry easily which they learn from a young age (which evidently explains Dragon Ball Z). 

Honda is ready for the match, despite the physicality of Australian players, again repeating that the exposure to the rugby codes and Australian Rules makes Australian footballers more physical and aggressive. The reaction to those words could be an interesting sideshow tonight!

Honda says he also has a “memory like a sieve” and did not remember that he had previously played at Marvel (formerly Etihad) Stadium, reveals that he's never been involved in a 'media roundtable' before, and that he's having trouble “deciphering some of the ocker accents of the reporters around him”.

Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners - Sunday 5pm AEDT, 4pm local

Mike Mulvey talks about how he has “rebuilt” the squad and the expectations at Central Coast Mariners, and why “Usain Bolt is a blessing”. Although he left the A-League as a championship-winning coach, he took over the team at the “other end” of the table in ninth position. He says he came into the job with his “eyes wide open”, but he's now got players from the “top shelf” as well as the “bottom shelf”. He argues that Usain Bolt has brought much needed awareness to the A-League and that is only good for football. 

The stage is set for Brisbane Roar to make home games “a fortress again” with their first two matches of the season at home against last season's two worst teams. If they win both games, Marco Monteverde points out that they would have gained more than one-third of their total points at home from last season. Ouch. Yes, they were that poor at home.

By the way, uncontracted 18-year-old Afghan refugee Rahmat Akbari from Brisbane has been offered a contract with Melbourne Victory. He makes the move with Brisbane Roar's blessing. 

Perth Glory v Western Sydney Wanderers - Sunday 7pm AEDT, 4pm local

Tony Popovic? Sentimental? Not likely - and nor is there not much room for sentiment in football ($). The fact that his former team, which he once ruled with an iron fist in a velvet glove, means nothing. He has a job to do; that is to turn around the fortune of Perth Glory; and that's what he's focussed on. 

In a report that starts with Babbel's comments on Bolt (see next item), it could be a tough ask for the Wanderers in Perth without Patrick Ziegler (knee), Kosta Grozos (knee) and Mark Bridge (calf). He said he has no recruitment plans - “this is a money thing” - but the players are working hard. Babbel said much the same thing here via Fairfax. 

Bolt Watch

Markus Babbel spoke a little more freely - perhaps - than he might to a local media outlet, with the Western Sydney Wanderers coach, who was capped 51 times for Germany, telling Swiss Blick newspaper that Usain Bolt is a “legend” who has brought a lot of attention to the A-League, but he is not good enough for it. He said it's not possible to switch from athletics to football, particularly at that age, and if it was others would do it. 

Calling a game

Brenton Speed on the art of calling a game ($), the preparation he puts into it, and how “Oh my goodness, oh my goodness ...” was simply a spontaneous reaction to Riley McGree's incredible scorpion kick in the semi-final last season. 

a-league, usain bolt, brenton speed, #melbderby, melbourne derby, central coast mariners, western sydney wanderers

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