Alessandro Del Piero’s move to the A-League is easily the biggest thing in Australian football since John Aloisi converted that penalty against Uruguay at the Olympic Stadium just a few days over seven years ago, but the signing by Newcastle of one of England’s most lacklustre performers may turn out to be just as big a coup for the league.
We’re talking Emile Heskey. The 34 year-old striker formerly of Aston Villa and previously an FA Cup winner with Liverpool has made a big impact since signing for the Jets in late September, sitting second on the goalscoring charts with five goals and helping Newcastle climb to third on the table.
Although Heskey may not have as big an effect as Del Piero in terms of lifting crowds, the team from Hunter Stadium still have over 11,000 members and look to be growing by the year under the ownership of mining magnate Nathan Tinkler and his Hunter Sports Group, despite his much publicised drop in wealth.
Heskey is an infamous cult figure in the UK. He is notorius for his lack of goals despite being a striker. The Heskey following rose to prominence in mid-2011, when a popular FIFA YouTuber named JJ Olatunji, or ‘KSIOlajidebt’ to his fans, created a video series named ‘Heskey Time’.
Football fans all over the country, and the world, joined the KSI Army and jumped on board the cult.
From this, Facebook and Twitter fan pages were created and masses of people connected with these accounts. This is where the A-League comes in to play. Upon hearing of Heskey moving to Australia, these social media pages ignited. People from other countries were taking interest in our A-League.
The biggest of these pages is ‘There should be a statue of Heskey outside Wembley’. To put it in comparison, this page could fill AAMI Park with their amount of fans and has more Facebook likes than many official A-League club pages.
This page now provides live coverage of A-League matches involving Heskey, exposing people from around the world to the league. YouTube videos of the highlights are uploaded onto the page, uncovering many of our young stars. On one certain occasion, the page was raving about blossoming jet James Virgilli, who assisted a Heskey goal.
Awat from the social media side, some back in the UK are calling for Heskey to play for England again. Be it a joke or not, these people must be watching. Clearly the move to the A-League has also been beneficial for Heskey.
The A-League still has a very long way to go, but as word goes around more internationally capped players will come here.
Sure, the salary cap may be a problem as clubs here don’t have as much cash to splash as their middle eastern counterparts, but Australia is one of the most liveable countries in the world, and for stars in the latter part of their careers who want to settle down, where else would you want to go?
The mix of young Australian players and older stars is doing very well for the league at the moment. Football has come a long way in Australia since the old ethnic-based NSL, and it’s only the beginning.
More good times are on the horizon.