Zeljko Kalac came out of retirement for TIlford Zebras in the Victory League and came home with a new Youth League keeper for Sydney FC.
Former AC Milan keeper Zeljko Kalac headed to Tasmania and took the field for Tilford Zebras two weeks ago in the Victory League and the Sydney FC goalkeeping coach was so impressed he brought a keeper back from Tassie with him.
18-year-old Tristan Prendergast will be signed to Sydney FC-s youth team as a result of some scouting Kalac did while in the Apple Isle and he believes the signing might be the first of many, outside of course of Melbourne Heart-s addition of Jeremy Walker.
“I-m going to sign Tristan Prendergast for my youth team and that-s what it-s all about,” Kalac said.
“If I had someone in NSW I thought was up to it I would have, but I-ve got Anthony Bouzanis who is a very good young keeper and is going to get better again I wanted to get another, so next year I-ll have three 18-year-olds I hope to develop.
“He (Prendergast) has come though the NTC program so he knows what the curriculum is all about, he has the height and the mobility of what I am looking for in a keeper. I think he fits in and we will give him the opportunity for a year and if I think he is up to the next level he will stay, if not I-ll release him.”
Picking up a keeper is one thing but Kalac has also given the Victory League his seal of approval when it comes to being a nursery, believing in the young talent and the set-up of the league, even if he doesn-t believe Tasmania is ready to be anything more to football.
“It was really enjoyable to go down to Tasmania to have a look at their setup and I was really impressed with the way both teams played and I watched the game after between South Hobart and Glenorchie Knights and they are playing to the curriculum which is nice to see,” he said.
“There is really good exposure for young players, playing in the State League and it-s a good way for Tasmania to develop players and give them exposure to first team football at a young age.
“I didn-t expect the standard to be that high and it was a very good standard to give the kids the opportunity to step up into the A-League and I think people should go down there and have a look at these players.”
So how did Kalac pull up? Anyone who has been to Sydney FC training knows the big man keeps lean and doesn-t mind a post-training crossbar challenge, but keeping in an actual match after a few years of retirement is completely different. But the man they call ‘Spider- fairly happy with the performance.
“I was ok actually. I still train every now and then, and training on the Thursday night with the boys was good, I pulled up really good, really enjoyed the match, conceded after 45 seconds and thought ‘this might be a long afternoon-, but it came good quickly and I almost felt like coming out of retirement, until the body told me the next couple of days not to.”
While Kalac was complimentary of the standard of the league he did issue a cruel blow to the dream of Tasmanian sports fans.
So often snubbed by the AFL when it comes to gaining a side and with the FFA not scheduling a Melbourne Victory game for the upcoming season in Tasmania, Kalac kept the bad news coming saying that in his opinion he doesn-t believe Tasmania is ready for an A-League team.
“This is going to hurt a lot of people in Tassie but I don-t think they are are ready for it,” Kalac said.
“I don-t think the population is big enough to draw in an A-League team and the last thing we want is another Gold Coast. As much as a lot of people love the game down there I can-t see them pulling in7,8 or 9000 people to a football match.
“With the distances of Launceston,Devonport and Hobart I just don-t think the population is big enough. I don-t think it would work.
“You look at the AFL they don-t even get massive crowds, I just think Tasmania needs to know it-s place in football and I believe that is to develop players and hopefully the A-League clubs give those players the opportunity and this will be the first step with Prendergast at Sydney FC.”
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