Mark Bresciano’s shocked Socceroos teammates are rallying around the veteran midfielder as he prepares to fight a four-month ban that could wreck his World Cup.
Bresciano has been suspended by FIFA for four months and fined $1.87 million for an illegal transfer between clubs in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
The 33-year-old trained on Sunday morning with the Socceroos squad in Sydney and will play against Costa Rica on Tuesday night.
But his future leading into the World Cup starting in Brazil next June is clouded by a controversy that stunned his teammates.
The controversy could cost Bresciano the captaincy of the national side. He has expressed a desire to assume that role, should new coach Ange Postecoglou decide to replace incumbent Lucas Neill.
“Obviously it was a massive shock,” midfielder Mark Milligan told reporters on Sunday.
“I don’t really know the details, so I’m still at a little bit of a loss as to the exact dimensions of what is going on.
“It seems like a strange situation and I’m sure we’ll all find out more as time goes on.”
Attacker Robbie Kruse backed Bresciano to perform well against Costa Rica despite the furore.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” Kruse told reporters.
“He’s a quality player but hopefully it can get all sorted and that the powers that be sort that out.
“He’s an experience player, 70-odd caps, he has played in some of the biggest stadiums and against big teams in the world, so I’m sure it’s not going to phase him too much.”
Bresciano’s creative midfield role is pivotal in the game plan of Postecoglou.
And Milligan said the stalwart’s sturdy character would help him through a battle to clear his name.
“Bresh is a quality player … I’m sure Bresh is going down the right channels and dealing with the right people and no doubt the head coach will have something to do with it,” Milligan said.
Football Federation Australian have been advised by FIFA that Bresciano was still available for the friendly against Costa Rica.
Bresciano joined Qatar club Al Gharafa last year, from Al Nasr in the UAE. But Al Nasr challenged the transfer and FIFA ruled the move broke the sport’s laws.
The specific reason for the FIFA verdict, or when Bresciano’s ban was due to begin, were not immediately known.
But Al Gharafa said they would appeal FIFA’s verdict to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the club’s general secretary Jassim Al Manosuri has said in a statement.
A CAS hearing date has not been set.