Diversity and harmony the key

I wonder how many, if any, sporting competitions can claim a more diverse range of players taking part in it than the Hyundai A-League.

I wonder how many, if any, sporting competitions can claim a more diverse range of players taking part in it than the Hyundai A-League.

Competitors from 50 different nationalities have played in the A-League in its eight year history, ranging from Albanian to Zambian.

This collection of players was born in over 250 different cities or towns across 60 countries. From Abidjan in the Ivory Coast to Zurich in Switzerland. From Oulu Finland towards the north pole to Dunedin New Zealand in the south.

Apart from Australians and New Zealanders, the all-time most popular nationality represented in the A-League is Brazilian, with 37 players from Brazil.

Next comes the English (26 A-League players), Dutch (17), Scots (11) and Argentines (9), followed by 7 players each from China, Japan and South Korea.

If we consider the populations of these source countries, we can see what nations are more over-represented than others.

The small central American country of Panama for example has provided two A-League players, Ricardo Clarke (Wellington Phoenix) and Yauro Yau (Sydney FC). Panama's population is 3.4 million, meaning that one in 1.7 million people from Panama have played in the A-League.

Using this measure, the most over-represented country (besides Australia and New Zealand) is the Solomon Islands. With a population of 520 thousand, the two A-League players from the Solomons Henry Fa'Arodo (Perth Glory 2005/06) and Benjamin Totori (Wellington Phoenix 2012/13) represent one in 260 thousand of the total population of the Solomon Islands.

After the Solomons, the most over-represented countries for all A-League players are Barbados (one in 270 thousand), Trinidad and Tobago (one in 660 thousand), Croatia (one in 720 thousand), Ireland (one in 920 thousand), Costa Rica (one in 930 thousand) and the Netherlands (one in 990 thousand).

And there has certainly been some shrewd selections among this lot, including Paul Ifill (Barbados), Dwight Yorke (Trinidad and Tobago) and Carlos Hernandez (Costa Rica).

For the most cosmopolitan mix of players in one A-League squad we need to go back to the New Zealand Knights team of 2006/07.

Suffering the indignity of the worst performance for a team in Australian national league season in 2005/06, the Knights desperately scoured the globe for that elusive combination of players and styles to take it off the bottom of the ladder the following year.

A motley troop from countries such as Canada, Switzerland, Ghana and China were recruited. By season-s end, players of 10 different nationalities played for the NZ Knights throughout 2006/07, a diverse record probably rarely matched in any football league competition in the world.

It didn't help however, and the Knights ingloriously finished at the bottom again in 2006/07.

Smart recruiting from different parts of the world however can produce a very effective and harmonious blend, as we've seen with the Western Sydney Wanderers in season 2012/13.

The Wanderers' current table-topping team includes players from Croatia, Germany, Italy, Japan and the Netherlands.

Combined with their majority Australian squad, and harnessed by home-grown coaching staff, the Wanderers have been rewriting the record books with their successful 2012/13 side.

The Wanderers' fruitful mix of players from Australia and several other countries however is not unique, and reflects the make-up of the A-League in general.

In fact the diversity of the A-League squads in recent years has continued to flourish.

And with the bulk of these teams now melded together by Australian coaching talent, the last season or two has provided the most entertaining weekly spectacle in the short history of the A-League, and arguably ever since the old NSL kicked-off four decades ago.

Historically high attendances, TV ratings and other media coverage is testament to this.

With competitors from 25 nationalities, born in 60 regions across 35 countries, the captivating 2012/13 Hyundai A-League season is a great example of how diversity and harmony can combine to create a very worthy outcome.

Follow Andrew Howe-s Aussie football stats updates on Twitter @AndyHowe_statto