(Reuters) - Australia players opted to boycott team activities on Tuesday over a long-running pay dispute, just 48 hours before their World Cup qualifier with Bangladesh, leaving head coach Ange Postecoglou fuming.
The players skipped commercial appearances in Perth in the latest saga of a protracted row between Football Federation Australia (FFA) and Professional Footballers Australia over negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement.
Postecoglou, who led Australia to the Asian Cup title on home soil in January, said he wanted the players focussed on Thursday’s clash against the Bangladeshis and next week’s fixture in Tajikistan.
“I should be talking about team selection, team tactics, growth, qualifying for the next World Cup,” Postecoglou was quoted as saying by Australian media on Tuesday.
“Maybe there’s a perception outside of camp that these games aren’t going to be that tough, and we can afford to have arguments that don’t impact us on the football field.”
A Bangladesh team official told Reuters last week they were just hoping to keep the score to three goals when they faced the Asian champions in the Group B encounter.
Australia, who beat Kyrgyzstan 2-1 in June, will travel to Central Asia to take on Tajikistan on Tuesday. The Socceroos need to finish top of the group, which also features Jordan, to ensure they progress to the second stage of Asian qualifiers.
Postecoglou refused to take sides in the row and said it was an unwelcome distraction.
“I‘m not happy it’s getting played out in Socceroo camp,” he said.
”I don’t have the players often and when I have them, that time’s precious. I don’t want any minute wasted.
”If we think it’s OK during the World Cup qualifiers to play out this scenario then I‘m out of whack with everyone else because I think while the camp is on... lay down your guns and pick them up as soon as it’s over, and go as hard as you want.
“It’s not good enough.”
Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O'Brien