Since joining Brisbane Roar in mid-2010 from Scottish club Greenock Morton, Erik Paartalu has been one of the first names written into Head Coach Ange Postecoglou’s team sheet each week, having claimed the defensive midfield role as his own through consistently strong performances in front of the back four.
Since joining Brisbane Roar in mid-2010 from Scottish club Greenock Morton, Erik Paartalu has been one of the first names written into Head Coach Ange Postecoglou-s team sheet each week, having claimed the defensive midfield role as his own through consistently strong performances in front of the back four.
And no matter what is said and done in the rest of his footballing career, the former Qantas Joey has already etched his name into club folklore after he scored the equalising goal at the death in the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 Grand Final against Central Coast Mariners.
Here, Paartalu talks about “that goal”, his role in the Roar-s leadership group, his national team ambitions and which teammate has been helping him with his fantasy football team.
Brisbaneroar.com.au caught up with the Sydney-born midfielder after training on Tuesday morning to ask your chosen questions from Facebook and Twitter.
1. When you were young, which team did you dream about playing for?
I loved Manchester United. I always followed them and when I got to the age of 18 or 19, I got to the stage where I realised it probably wasn-t going to come true so I had to set my standards a little bit lower. I loved watching Roy Keane and unfortunately an Arsenal player in Patrick Viera, but that whole Manchester United team that won all the trophies and won the treble and when David Beckham was there, I used to idolise them.
2. Do you still get goosebumps thinking about your header in last year-s Hyundai A-League Grand Final?
I don-t think about it too often to be honest but when people bring it up in media and when I hear the commentary back again, it definitely gives me goosebumps. You almost feel as though it wasn-t you, like you-re watching someone else do that. It-s definitely an inspiration when I need to go back to it. Honestly, since the season began, I haven-t watched it back. It-s probably a good thing too, it-s good to have it in the memory bank but to move on now and get on with the season now is what I-m all about. Possibly in the off-season, if nothing else has happened, I might watch it over but hopefully there will be something else to watch by then!
3. Last week-s Q and A, Nick Fitzgerald pointed you out as someone he feels has helped him in getting him settled in his promoted role. Is being a mentor to younger players something you set out to do?
It-s a little bit of a coming of age. Because I-ve been overseas and had some good and bad experiences, I-m just trying to pass on my experiences with football. It-s something I obviously haven-t to do being part of the leadership group but it-s also something I want to do. It-s just about giving the young boys belief and especially in our team, there-s no big egos or boys that can-t have an opinion or a voice. People like Fitzy, who really had a chance in the game, I want to give them confidence and push them along. Before Fitzy-s first A-League game, I know there were a lot of people trying to tell him things and that-s always the case on your debut. Everyone-s trying to say ‘do this- or ‘do that-. I just said, ‘Mate, keep close to Shaneo [Stefanutto] on the left-hand side, help him out in defence and when you go forward, be positive-. Just those two things. Then, before the Mariners game on the weekend I told him to remember where he-s come from, he came from the Mariners. I said ‘go out there and show them how much better you-ve got as a player at Brisbane and show all those boys that you-re playing against that you-re better than them- and just to believe in himself. With the young guys I think you can-t really flood them with information. It-s hard enough as it is coming into our team and it can be overwhelming. But Fitzy has got a great head on his shoulder and even if I didn-t say those things, he-s still got his head in the right place which is what I like most about him. I was buzzing after he set me up for the goal on the weekend, there-s a few good photos! I was happy because during the week, the gaffer and Rado [Vidosic] were trying to get me a little bit more advanced when the ball was going forward. I found it difficult at times against Newcastle because Thomas [Broich] was playing in that front role so I didn-t feel as though I had enough space to move into. They pointed it out and really, it was just a mindset thing and luckily for me, it only took me five minutes against the Mariners to reap the rewards.
4. You-re currently a part of the Brisbane Roar leadership group … Do you see yourself eventually captaining the Roar or another club one day?
I-d like to. I definitely have ambitions to be a captain at some point in my career. I think Smithy is going to be here for life now so there-s not much chance of that happening. Being in the leadership group at the moment and learning under the guys like Theo and Shaneo, they-ve got great knowledge and great experience and I-m maturing as a player. Even speaking to the missus about games, I-m so much stronger mentally than I was when I was overseas. It-s because of the experiences I had, like what Matty McKay is facing at the moment, getting through that period of those hard times and seeing it firsthand. It hasn-t all been rosy and you-ve got to deal with criticism and people think you-re not playing well even though statistically you are playing well. You can-t listen to the media too much and you-ve got to focus on your own game. That-s probably the biggest thing for me. I-ve become mentally stronger, I set an example at training and I hope the boys follow. I don-t think age is important. Obviously, I-m the youngest in the leadership group and it pushes me every day to keep pushing the older guys. Just because Theo and Shaneo are the oldest, it doesn-t mean I can-t yell at them or they can-t yell at me. I-m not going to be disrespectful but if something needs to be said, I-m not afraid to say it and I know the guys will respect that I will do that because I-m the first one after training to shake someone-s hand and say ‘what was that all about?- or ‘what do you think about this?-. It-s competitive and as long as the spirit is competitive, it-s a place we all want to be.
5. Do you hold ambitions to represent the Qantas Socceroos?
Of course I do. It-s one of those things which is a tough one because the overseas-based players get priority and although we-re playing in one of the best teams in Australia and doing so well, it-s hard because you do get overlooked. It-s not just me, it-s the other boys as well in the A-League. Look at the boys that have done well in the past - Matty McKay waited a long time for his chance and when he got it, he didn-t look out of place so I know that if Matty can do it, there are plenty of boys in the team that could step up and play at that level, it-s just a matter of getting a chance. I definitely want to represent the Socceroos before I finish playing. It becomes easier when you move overseas but I-m not going to move overseas so hopefully I can represent the Socceroos. I want to keep enjoying my football, keep growing as a player. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn-t, it doesn-t and I-ll know I-ll have tried my best. Obviously, [Qantas Socceroos coach] Holger Oseick has been at a few A-League games having a look and it-s all good having a look but it-s about being chosen and getting that cap, that-s what we all strive for. That-s the highest honour you can receive and it-s pretty important to me. I-m not slating it saying I should be in the team, I don-t think that at all. I think from what this team has achieved in the past 18 months, it would be wrong if one or two of us don-t get a call up in the future because I do believe there is a big talent pool at the Brisbane Roar. Not just for the next year or two but for the next five or ten years, there-s a lot of good youngsters coming through and there-s a lot of good players at this club. It-s a pleasure to be here and work hard and as a team, I feel like we-re just getting back to where we were probably at the start of the season.
6. What-s the best part about away trips? Who do you room with and can you spill any secrets?
Just being able to rest I think. You try not to change your routine too much on game day but when you-re away at the hotel, you get a lot of rest time. You can train all week and when you travel you-re a little bit tired but when you get to the hotel, you can get your good food in, you can have a good sleep and that next day you can have another good sleep because you-ve got time to just hang around your bed, literally in bed. It is quite good but if you-ve got a late kick-off it can be a hindrance because you-re in bed too long. That-s probably the best thing because at home, you-re not in bed as much and you-re just waiting for the game to come around and there are more distractions. I try and keep everything the same. I room with Theo. Secrets? Well, he loves his fantasy football - English Premier League. We have a little group going with about 20 players. We-ve roomed together since day one and I think in October, I was sitting in about 14th and now I-m sitting fourth so I think his influence has rubbed off on me. He-s sitting top, he tries to change his team four weeks in advance and looks at fixtures, he-s fully into it. He doesn-t share his secrets but I get a few little tips out of him every now and again. He-s got lots of good information, I-m just the apprentice.
7. What would you be doing if you weren-t a professional footballer?
That-s a tough question. I think it would have to be something to do with sport, a PE teacher or a coach of some sort. I love my basketball, before I started playing football I-m really into it. My dad made me make the decision when I was 11 or 12, saying ‘you have to chose one, basketball or football- and luckily for me, I chose football. I think I was better suited for football. Maybe at the time, I wasn-t that tall and potentially was only going to grow to six foot four - which is how tall I am now. It-s not that short but short enough in basketball terms. It was good that my dad gave me that choice because it would have been horrible if he had said ‘you have to do this- or ‘you have to do that-. So yeah, if I wasn-t footballer, I would probably be a coach or a PE teacher.