As Sydney FC announced another coup, this time with the signing of Socceroos star Jason Culina, the A-League appears to be in a better place than it has been for a number of years.
The A-League can thank the recent influx of international, yet aging, stars coming across the equator to play in a budding league during the twilights of their careers.
Culina, who hasn’t played in a year due to a knee injury, will draw even more fans to the game, his signing coming on the same day the club sold out their first home game in four years. The main reason for sell out? Italian Del Piero. Sydney fans will treated to an Week 2 bonanza as the club takes on a Newcastle side featuring another recently acquired international star- Emile Heskey.
Week 1 of the A-League season drew record crowds and not just in Sydney. Television numbers were through the roof (speaking in terms of soccer audiences in Australia) with pay TV broadcaster Fox Sports announcing an average of 108,000 viewers per game. Del Piero’s Sydney side drew a thousand people over the weekend average while Western Sydney’s debut game against Central Coast attracted 123,000 and the Melbourne derby featured 129,000 viewers. That’s a 35 percent increase over last year, the biggest numbers in Fox’s soccer broadcasting history.
Del Piero’s debut showed that the guy could still be playing in the Italian Serie A, however Heskey’s debut wasn’t as glamorous. The 34-year-old had only been in the country 10 days yet still started and logged 70 minutes, but failed to have much of an impact as his club lost 2-0 against Adelaide.
This weekend’s clash between the two former international stars will be the first time they officially meet on the football pitch. It almost happened once before; in a 2000 match between England and Italy, Heskey left the field as a substitute the moment Del Piero entered.
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Image courtesy of Getty Images.