Loukas Founten’s book A Decade United examines the eventful first 10 years of Adelaide United’s history.
Founten – also a journalist with the ABC – watched the drama unfold at close quarters and takes you behind the scenes with a series of revealing interviews.
In this exclusive extract, former coach John Kosmina offers a candid recollection of the upheaval that came with Romario’s signing.
Romario played at PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona throughout a stunning career in which he scored more than 1000 goals. He netted 55 of them for Brazil and was named the player of the tournament when his nation won the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
But his brief stint at Adelaide United in the 2006-07 season was disruptive and unsuccessful, as he finished with one goal from four games.
Romario, for me, was just a big waste of money. He virtually killed our season.
He was a great player – I used to love watching him and I even played against him in the Gold Cup when Australia played Brazil in 1998, and I went to the Olympics as well and Romario scored a hat-trick against us when they beat us 3-0.
He was amazing then but we’re talking about him 15 years later. He was 40 years old and he was finished.
He still had football smarts and he still had his little party pieces during small-sided games at training, but for me, I didn’t want it and I told the club that.
I remember talking to [then-chief executive] Michael Petrillo before we went for a game away from home and he was really pushing for the signing.
I remember before we went away, I told him to hold off and not do anything yet but I got back after the game that weekend and they’d signed him: they’d agreed to terms and I just had the shits.
Romario turned up with his entourage and it really upset the apple cart.
A debut to forget
We had a pretty good year and it was tight. We were neck-and-neck with the Victory.
They’d beaten us in the first game of the season and we were then the first to beat them that season in Melbourne in front of 40-odd thousand people, so it was neck-and-neck.
But then Romario came along and it really blew our season because we had to accommodate him.
He wasn’t fit and might have only had one or two sessions with us. I can’t remember if he even travelled with us or just turned up at the Central Coast.
Romario had two one-on-ones in the first 15 minutes and he stuffed them up completely, and for someone like him, they should have been a regulation finish. I knew it was going to be bad from then on.
We’d had to re-shuffle the line-up…to fit him in and it changed the way we played because nobody knew how he played or how to play with him.
Romario wasn’t keen to train and he actually missed a few sessions.
His groins would be too sore and he’d instead go play beach volleyball at Glenelg with his entourage, and I was really annoyed.
It still bugs me because it was such a waste. I don’t think anyone in Brazil gives a rat’s arse about Adelaide United now.
‘We don’t care about the three points’
In one of the games, I think against the New Zealand side, Romario was playing like a busted arse.
He couldn’t move so I hooked him with about half-an-hour to go and when he came off he got the shits and walked straight off the pitch, grabbed his bag and left. He didn’t even have a shower.
After that, I had to go to a meeting with [then-chairman] Dario Fontanarosa. Michael Petrillo and Mel Patzwald [the board member who lured Romario to Adelaide] were also there.
I knew what it was all about. They told me they’d invested too much in Romario and he had to play. I told them I didn’t care if he’s got the shits because he was killing the team.
We had momentum and we’d lost it completely since he’d come. They wanted Romario playing and they didn’t want Ross Aloisi playing. It was an interesting discussion.
I’d already decided that Ross needed a break because he was having a few personal issues but in terms of Romario, I asked what they’d do if I didn’t play Romario and they told me he was going to leave the club.
I remember Dario saying “We don’t care about the three points, we need him to play,” and I looked at him and said “Are you f***ing kidding?”
They were all nice blokes but with Romario those guys were like three groupies. I was embarrassed the way they were fussing over him; it was almost sad and belittling.
In the end, I told them I’d play him but if I wasn’t happy with him he would be coming off, whether it was 10 minutes into the game or an hour in.
As it was, we played Newcastle and got our season back on track.
Romario scored his goal, although Jason Spagnuolo did most of the work and basically put it in the net for him, but true to form, Romario got a toe on it to push it over the line and he achieved his ambition to score in Australia.
I didn’t want him to finish the game, even though we were in a comfortable position, and he knew it when I took him off.
I told him that it was nice for him to have 10 minutes on the sideline where he could stand and salute the crowd on his own without the rest of his team-mates.
Before Romario turned up, we were playing well enough to have gone on and probably won the competition.
To celebrate Liverpool’s visit, you can save $5 on each copy of A Decade United by using the special code ‘Liverpool’.
The book is also available for purchase via iBooks, with Amazon Kindle and Kobo editions to come.