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Aussie keeper's long road to South Africa

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Paul Fletcher | 09:00 UK time, Thursday, 24 June 2010

World Cup 2010: Nelspruit

Adam Federici was preparing for Reading's game at Cardiff in early April when the text messages started arriving. Had he really been approached by Italy manager Marcelo Lippi? Was he about to sensationally switch allegiance from Australia to the world champions?

The 25-year-old goalkeeper has an Italian father and, having not made a senior appearance for the Socceroos, was eligible to play for the Azzurri.

Federici, coming to the end of his breakthrough season, quickly played down talk of a switch, but then nothing has been particularly straightforward in his journey from Jervis Bay - a small seaside town 90 minutes from Sydney - to the World Cup in South Africa.

His eight-year quest to make it as a professional has taken him to Italy, an Olympic Games, a sprinkling of non-league clubs in the south of England, the bottom of a well and a team-mate's sofa.

He was highly rated as a junior in Australia but that appeared to count for little as the 17-year-old failed to convince a number of English clubs, including Bolton, to take him on.

"Many of them said I had the ability but not the experience," said Federici, who spent an unhappy year at Sardinian side Torres Calcio, for whom Gianfranco Zola once played.

Adam Federici trains with the Australian team Federici has not played a full international for Australia

The option of returning home to work in his father's accountancy business must have been tempting but Federici had the support of his family and a dogged determination fuelled by rejection.

His perseverance was rewarded when Steve Coppell took the plunge in September 2005, signing the keeper for Reading on a non-contract basis.

"I had spent three years knocking on doors and sleeping on floors in the hope of earning a contract," added Federici.

Not that the non-contract deal resulted in instant riches - or even a comfortable bed. Federici was so short of money that he lived at Ibrahim Sonko's flat, sleeping on the sofa.

Federici was loaned out to non-league sides Maidenhead United, Northwood and Carshalton Athletic in order to gain the experience that had deterred so many professional clubs from taking a chance.

But Federici kept plugging away and gradually adjusted to the physical demands of non-league football. His hard work paid off when the Royals gave him a one-year professional deal in the summer of 2006, allowing him to move into a place of his own.

"It was great to finally unpack my suitcase, move into a place and feel settled," he said.

With US international Marcus Hahnemann established as the first choice at the Madjeski Stadium, opportunities were at a premium. But Federici did play in the FA Cup during the 2006/7 season, putting in an eye-catching man-of-the-match performance as his team held Manchester United to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

His progress did not go unnoticed in his homeland. He was invited to train with the Socceroos ahead of their friendly against Denmark in London in January 2007. Six months later, he was called into the squad ahead of the match against Uruguay.

A stand-out performer for Australian at the Beijing Olympics, Federici also claimed the number one spot at Reading following Hahnemann's transfer to Wolves last summer.

And such was his form during the latter stages of the season that Tottenham and Liverpool were reportedly interested in his services.

"To have your name thrown about with those sort of clubs shows that I am moving in the right direction," Federici told me. "Who would have thought that four or five years ago."

Mark Schwarzer played every minute of Australia's three matches at the World Cup in South Africa - but Federici's experiences have strengthened his resolve to become the Socceroos number one.

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"I spent a lot of years on the road travelling around and to be in South Africa made it feel as though all the hard work had paid off," Federici told me. "I am looking forward to one day actually playing in a World Cup. I got a taster here in South Africa and I want to show what I can do on a big stage but I have a lot of years in front of me."

Australia failed to repeat their exploits of four years ago in Germany by progressing from the group stage. But they won a thrilling final game against Serbia in Nelspruit on Wednesday, coming within two goals of snatching second place in Group D.

Federici now heads back to England and is looking forward to trying to win promotion with the Royals next season - but not before taking a brief holiday.

"We have been in camp for several weeks with a very structured routine," he said. "I'm not sure that I will watch all that much of the rest of the World Cup. It is time to have a week off and completely zone out."

You can follow me throughout the World Cup at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    THIS is the real face of football!
    Not a bunch of overpaid prima-donnas!

  • Comment number 2.

    Give it a year and he will be one of the overpaid prima-donnas you dislike!

  • Comment number 3.

    Federici's a solid, reliable keeper and it's no wonder the likes of Spurs and Liverpool have been watching him but he has to be careful not to make a hasty move to one of the 'big' clubs and get stuck behind the likes of Reina and Gomez, like he is with Mark Schwarzer in the Oz national team. It's harder for a keeper to get regular games if he's not first choice and can dissappear off the radar. He's better off going to a mid-table Premier League team or sticking with The Royals for the moment.

  • Comment number 4.

    Now then,

    Adam Federici was always extremely unlikely to make an impact here in South Africa as No.1 keeper Mark Schwarzer must be just about the first name down on the team sheet.

    However, Federici's time will surely come as Schwarzer is 38 in October. In fact, last night's game was surely the end of an era for the Socceroos, who have a fair few players who are unlikely to be around by the next World Cup.

    The Aussie team at this tournament wasn't all that different to the side we saw in Germany - and it will be interesting to see if they have enough talented young players to rise up and fill the void.

  • Comment number 5.

    You're bang on about Schwarzer Paul, but is he retiring soon and there's still Brad Jones to contend with who's still only 28...but Federici's still got a great chance of taking the Socceroo no.1 spot granted. Good luck to him!

  • Comment number 6.

    Good luck to Adam, let's hope his career goes from strength to strength now he's been recognised on the world stage.

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm pleased for Fedders, should be a good experience and no doubt that if he continues in this vain he will be Australia's number 1 at a few World Cups time, and as a Royals fan always good to see us represented at the World Cup.
    Adam shot stopping and kicking is top class, so to be honest it surprises me that it was as difficult as it was for him to get his chance, although you could argue that it was the making of him.
    Any move to the Premier League would be a bad move for Adam at this time I feel. As stated he has only just broken through for us last season, and still isn't the most comfortable with crosses yet, so first team football just out of the main spotlight is probably just right for him at the moment. But definitely in a few years I see him being Aussie No 1 and in the Premier League, hopefully with us.

  • Comment number 8.

    As an Australian Royals fan there is no other player in the world that fits the criteria as well as Adam to be referred to as my favourite player! I get the feeling that Adam as of now is probably preferred to Brad Jones as the 2nd choice keeper but this could change as both players compete each other for that spot during next season. Because both players play in the championship the new Australian coach will be able to draw comparisons between the 2, so much emphasis can be placed on how the 2 perform next year for their clubs.

    I initially had my doubts that Adam would be able to fill the void as the Royals 1st choice keeper but he has far exceeded my expectations and apart from the rare error here and there, by and large he has excelled at the Royals and it would be wise for him to continue his career at Reading at least for another 2 years to gain more experience and prove himself to his critics and himself. Federici and Sigurdsson were for me the 2 big improvers in 09/10 and I hope it conitnues for the 10/11 season.

    Thanks to Paul on a great article aswell, very refreshing to read a feel good story about one of my favourite players.

    Go Royals and Socceroos!

  • Comment number 9.

    Southend fan here. I have to say in the 20 years I have been watching Southend, the short period when we had Federici in, I would happily and quite easily say he is the best goal keeper I have seen play here. I think one side of his game that is never mentioned when I here him talked about is his distribution. I think he had two assists for us straight from his kicking.
    Good luck to the guy, he has worked had to get where he is and deserves his rewards.

  • Comment number 10.

    4. At 1:22pm on 24 Jun 2010, Paul Fletcher wrote:

    In fact, last night's game was surely the end of an era for the Socceroos, who have a fair few players who are unlikely to be around by the next World Cup.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I'd disagree, their era ended with that World Cup in 2006. They would have been better equipped for 2002 had they not imploded at the point of the play offs.

    Imagine what that team could have been:

    Schwarzer

    Muscat Neill Moore Culina

    Emerton Cahill Bresciano Chipperfield

    Viduka Kewll

    Those lads trounced England in 2003 when they were in their peak.

    Thye must now start again, and to be honest who do they have? Nobody. I'd argue that they are worse equipped than San Marino.

  • Comment number 11.

    Not to denigrate Australia in the slightest, but England did make 11 substitutions at half-time in that game! I've seen contests taken more seriously, put it that way.

    I follow Reading too and have seen Feds play an awful lot (my favourite moment? Probably a 96th minute equaliser against Cardiff he scored on Boxing Day 2008). He's got some talent without doubt, but still looks a bit raw as you'd expect from his age. A move to the Premiership is a bit soon for him I think - better to carry on getting games in the Championship and work out how to stop getting beaten at your near post than make a premature step up and have a benchwarming career like eg. Stuart Taylor (who's nearly 30 and can't have played much more than 50 games ever)

  • Comment number 12.

    Good luck to him in his career,he has shown great desire to get to the top and deserves the success that will surely follow.......

  • Comment number 13.

    #11 Fortinbras99

    i agree that 2002 would have been a better year for that team. However Tim Cahill wasnt eligable for Australia until 2004 after an appearance for Samoa as a 14-year-old meant he couldnt play until fifa changed their regulations.

    To compare Australian Football to San Marino is a bit harsh. The A league introduced in 2004 is not that bad and only going to get better. They already attract decent sponsors and unlike the UK the teams arent being run in debt.

    Also now they have moved to the asian qualifing they probably will be most world cups in the future. Its in a far better state than the Scottish leagues.

  • Comment number 14.

    sorry i mean #10 tomefccam who my comment was refering to.

  • Comment number 15.

    So good to see a blog about Feds!

    My season ticket seat has been behind the home goal at Madjeski Stadium for a good few years now and I have been able to see Adam go from the other guy that came out to warm up with Marcus, to the substitue keeper who got a few appearences and maybe in the cup games, to our Number 1! Feds has improved so much in the last few seasons and I am looking forward to another great season with him between the sticks.

    He has a good relationship with the crowd and everyone behind the goal really gets behind him, giving him a few shouts to gee him up before the game starts and encouragement throughout the game. Adam returns this with claps and happily signs autographs for the younger ones down the front. He even gave away a couple of pairs of his boots to fans this season to thank them for their support!

    I hope that this season will give Adam the platform he deserves to be picked as the Australian Number 1, he surely has the ability, passion and pride to represent his country.

    Come on you Royals!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    Cardiff fan here. Have kept an eye on Federici since he first had a stormer and eventually scored against us the season before last. Particularly impressed with his kicking, he's got great technique and is very stylish. I liked him already, having read this about his journey I like him even more. Can see him playing in the prem within 2 years and best of luck to him, hope he makes a lot of money out of football its nice to see someone who's perservered enough to deserve it. And no doubt he will be Australia's number one come the next world cup to complete the story. Someone write a film. And call it Goal 4: The Keeper.

 

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