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'Slap in the face for the A-League' - Muscat slams Arnold and FFA for Olyroos selection

5:18 AM GMT+4 11/03/2019
Graham Arnold/ Kevin Muscat
The champion coach has revealed tension between himself and the national team set up over international call ups

Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat has blasted the FFA and national team coach Graham Arnold for compromising the A-League season with Olyroos selection.

Arnold named 16 A-League players among a squad of 24 for the three matches against Cambodia, Chinese Taipei and South Korea between March 22 and 26 as the Olyroos battle to qualify for next year's AFC U23 Championships in Thailand.

While the games take place during the international window, Arnold has ordered players selected in the squad link up with him early in Kuala Lumpur - meaning A-League players will miss one league match.

Despite only his Victory defender Thomas Deng being picked in the squad, Muscat says the removal of so many players from a competition round brought the A-League into 'disrepute' and he also criticised the rule used by Arnold and the FFA to force players to participate.

"We were having strong conversations with FFA because I wanted Tommy to stay. In the end reluctantly, based on the Club Participation Agreement (CPA), we released him," Muscat said.

"FFA and Graham decided they’d invoke the CPA, which is outdated and detrimental to our competition. Legally we didn’t have a leg to stand on, otherwise I would’ve made a stand.

"I’m a big advocate for (the A-League). If qualifiers and friendlies are more important, then the A-League should have stopped.

"By taking 15-odd players, you’re saying it’s not important. It’s a slap in the face for the A-League and brought the whole competition into disrepute.

"Teams are qualifying for playoffs and managers are coaching for their livelihoods, yet one team will gain an advantage. Wellington are playing a severely understrength Western Sydney, what does that say for Newcastle or teams chasing finals.

"It’s about time actions show we take it seriously. The competition’s been treated with contempt as far as I’m concerned.”

Muscat also revealed Arnold told him Deng would be captain of the team for the three upcoming matches - an honour the Victory charge was proud his player received.

But he reiterated his belief that Deng could have travelled to meet up with the Olyroos after playing for Victory at home against Brisbane Roar this Saturday.

"I told Arnie I’ll do everything in my power to keep him here as a stance, because I’m treating my responsibilities seriously. But it was overruled,’’ he said.

"In that conversation he mentioned and stressed that Tommy was going to be the captain. I’m pleased that Tommy will get the opportunity to captain his nation.

"No one needs to tell me how important the Olympics are. I thought (Tommy) arriving five days before the first game against Cambodia and nine days before their crunch game against Korea was reasonable.

"My biggest issue is that FFA runs the competition. And whilst we all agree on the importance of preparations and Olympic qualifying, I don’t think any significant consideration was given to the A-League’s importance."