Macarthur FC in training before they face the Mariners in the AFC ASEAN Zonal Final. Photo Credit: Poletti/The Inner Sanctum

Heading into the AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Final, Macarthur coach Mile Sterjovski knows how important this game is for his side.

After a tough 2-1 loss on the weekend to Wellington Phoenix, Sterjovski says his side has recovered well.

“It’s a huge game for us as a team and as a club so I think everyone is really up for it.

“We know the importance of it for the club. It’s great that there’s two Australian clubs in the [Zonal] final. 

“It’s great for recognition for the Australian league but we’re focused on us. We’re very motivated for this match.”

In a report from the Asia/Oceanic arm of FIFPRO, there is an argument presented that the current model of the Asian Champions League does not provide enough benefits to clubs and players.

With Macarthur playing in the second tier competition under the current model, it could be argued it is harder for the model to provide benefit, especially with the prize money so deep into the tournament being only $153,000 for advancement to the Inter-Zonal semi-final. 

“It’s not for me to say really, but when you look at it, you want the prize money to be a bit more,” Sterjovski said.

“I think a lot of the clubs that travel far are losing out. It’s not easy for the club and the owners.

“The prize money would be great if it was more to cover most of the costs and even an incentive for some of the players and the clubs.

“Hopefully they’ll look at that into the future and make it a bit more appealing.” 

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Jake Hollman has been one of the standout players for Macarthur this season, being incredibly consistent in the midfield for Sterjovski’s side.

Hollman puts his strong season down to being able to have a full pre-season, which he has not had previously.

“I think it’s been a really good season for me in terms of being more consistent in my game.

“I think the main thing I can put a difference to is [that] I’ve had a lot of unfortunate illnesses and injuries that have prohibited me having a full pre-season or disrupted my actual season which is very hard for a young player to build momentum.

“This year I’ve been very fortunate, hopefully that nothing else happens.

“I’ve been fit and able to go through a full pre-season with the club, with Mile, understand how he really wants to play and build on and build on what I have been over the past seasons here.”

Hollman talked about getting this far in the AFC Cup is a hard journey, but also said it is a rewarding journey.

“You go to these places and they’re not the most appealing, sometimes you’re sleeping on very hard beds, you’ve got to be careful with what water goes into your mouth, what foods you eat.

“But it’s very rewarding when you come away with the win and you get to travel home and play again on the weekend.

“Every player will tell you they just want to play games. So for me [as] a young player, the more games we play this year the better.”

Macarthur FC hosts the Central Coast Mariners in the AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Final at Campbelltown Stadium on Thursday February 22 with a 7pm kick-off.

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