MELROURNE — Melbourne Heart might just be a small team rooted at the bottom of the A-League in Australia with just one big name on their team books — Harry Kewell, the former Liverpool legend.
But yesterday, they made all the headlines in the world when they were bought by English Premier League giants Manchester City.
It might still not ring a bell as yet. But in the Melbourne Heart team is one Zimbabwean, goalkeeper Tando Yuji Velaphi.
The 26-year-old goalkeeper made six appearances for the Australian Under-20 side and seven for the Under-23 national team.
Born to a Zimbabwean father and Japanese mother in Perth, Western Australia, Velaphi joined Heart from Melbourne Victory on a one-year deal this season, but has found it hard to break into the first 11. He made 74 appearances for Perth Glory between 2007 and 2011.
According to reports in the Daily Mail, the purchase follows the establishment of New York City FC in the US, a club formed in conjunction with the New York Yankees. They will play in the Major League School in 2015.
Heart also have names that will be familiar to English fans in former Leicester defender Patrick Kisnorbo and ex-Coventry midfielder Michael Mifsud and were managed by former Portsmouth striker John Aloisi until his sacking in December.
They have not shown much heart this season, however, winning just one of their 15 league matches.
They also have the longest winless run in the A-League this season (14) and the longest losing run (five). Indeed, their first victory only came last Friday, 3-1 against the Newcastle Jets with Mate Dugandzic scoring twice.
This may be a reason why their average attendance is 10 000 in a stadium that holds 30 050.
City — second in the Barclays English Premier League and through the Capital One Cup final, — face Barcelona in the Champions League last 16 and play Watford in the FA Cup fourth round tomorrow.
Despite this discrepancy in form and results, City chief executive officer Ferran Soriano said: “We are excited about the opportunity to make Melbourne Heart one of the most successful football clubs in Australia and throughout the region.
“We believe the strong sports culture of Melbourne, combined with the football and commercial expertise within our consortium will make for a powerful combination both on and off the pitch,” Soriano said.
“The first thing we must do is take time to listen and learn and then to develop our strategy for strengthening the club over time.”
As the Heart are in the middle of the A-League season, the new owners will put off any announcement until the middle of this year.
Bart Campbell, who is chairman of the Melbourne Storm rugby league team — who have a 20% share in the newly-owned football team — and the Heart Consortium Group ,said: “Partnering with City to co-invest in Melbourne Heart will further strengthen the sporting landscape in one of the world’s greatest cities and bring a range of new capabilities to AAMI Park.”
— Sports Reporter/Daily Mail