Home / Blog / A


Sep 01, 2023Sep 01, 2023

When minnow Central Coast faced up against soccer giant Melbourne City in the 2023 A-League grand final, it was a classic case of David and Goliath.

The paupers of the competition up against the financial muscle of City, which is owned by the global football colossus City Football Group.

"Coming into the grand final the three players for Melbourne City up front were worth more than the entire total salary of our entire squad," Central Coast chief executive Shaun Mielekamp said.

However, it was the Mariners who would end up victorious, thrashing City 6-1.

The answer to how this could happen lies in the canny soccer blueprint adopted by the New South Wales club.

Trading at the bottom of the A-League's multi-million-dollar salary cap due to lack of funds, Mariners coach Nick Montgomery combined recruiting fringe players from other clubs and building up the club's academy to put together a championship winning squad.

"We had the great luxury of Nick Montgomery signing some great players who weren't getting a gig elsewhere," Mielekamp said.

"Nectar Triantis stands out as a player who couldn't get in front of expensive visa players at Western Sydney Wanderers.

"[He] was able to come in, know we had the academy there, excellent straight away, straight into the starting line-up and was a key player in the grand final success."

It's a similar story at Adelaide United, which has had a production line of exciting young local talent playing in its successful A-League side in recent years.

"Smaller clubs like us and Central Coast, we need that, we don't have the big budget to go and buy the big players," Reds head of youth coach Airton Andrioli said.

He's watched the likes of Mohamed Toure and Nestory Irankunda go through the ranks with the youth team playing in the local State League, to being given professional contracts with the A-League side.

Both clubs have had success selling young players abroad, creating a successful business model for the smaller clubs.

"It's significant revenue to the point that this year is likely to be our main revenue stream," Central Coast's Shaun Mielekamp said.

Since winning the grand final, the Mariners have sold the likes of Nectar Triantis to English Championship side Sunderland and Sam Silvera to Middlesbrough.

Earlier sales include a boom deal with English Premier League powerhouse Newcastle for Socceroos forward Garang Kuol.

"It's part of the business model. If we don't sell players and have players move from the top squad, we can't provide a clear pathway for the younger ones coming through," Mielekamp said.

"From a business perspective it allows the club to grow, it allows the club to increase resources back into the Academy."

Andrioli says the Reds have a similar football plan, it's the business side of football.

"It's no secret, we always tell the boys that we are going to provide them a pathway to initially play for younger national teams, then playing for Adelaide and then the next step will be overseas," he said.

Seventeen-year-old Musa Toure is part of Andrioli's current team that has made the State League finals and is seen by many pundits as the next big thing.

He's the younger brother of Al Hassan and Mohamed Toure, who both burst into the soccer spotlight with Adelaide United and are now playing professionally overseas.

"[I] watched soccer on TV with my dad and we always wanted to become professional soccer players, we used to play every day until our mum would tell us to come inside," Musa said.

"That's our life, football."

Musa has heard firsthand how difficult it has been for his brothers to survive in the cut-throat world of professional soccer overseas, but remains undaunted.

"It'd be very tough to leave my country and my family, but at the end of the day it's football and just the sacrifices you're going to make to become a professional footballer," he said.

Andrioli says if Toure and A-League sensation Irankunda are eventually sold, it's good business by Adelaide.

"We don't have the ability, the big budget to bring big names and big players, so we hope that those players go overseas and with that, we get that financial reward," Andrioli said.

The Mariners A-League success is proving to be a magnet for those with big dreams.

"We are bombarded with triallists and it does take a fair bit of work now to manage inbound requests," Mielekamp said.

"We have to make sure that we're finding the right people for the right reasons.

"From kids as young as 13 we're getting approaches from parents and players who are looking to move into the region to be part of the Academy."

Its a win-win situation for players dreaming of the big time, while A-League clubs are able to remain sustainable.