Sports Melbourne veterans are young at heart By Cindy Luis Feb. 23, 2012 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. All the world IS a stage when it comes to soccer, the most popular sport played around the globe. And Melbourne Heart FC has two members who have played on some of the biggest international stages in head youth coach John Aloisi and center midfielder Josip Skoko, the latter who has come out of retirement to play in this week’s Hawaiian Islands Invitational at Aloha Stadium. The two 36-year-olds truly are the men among boys on this international trip, which is the first for many on the Melbourne side. HAWAIIAN ISLANDS INVITATIONAL At Aloha Stadium Today » Busan I’Park FC (Korea) vs. Melbourne Heart (Australia), 6 p.m. » Colorado Rapids (MLS) vs. Yokohama FC (Japan), 8:30 p.m. Saturday » Consolation, 5 p.m. » Final, 7:30 p.m. » Tickets: $10-$60. eticketshawaii.com, hawaiianislandsinvitational.com. With the Football Federation of Australia’s A-League in season, the Heart has sent most of its youth (under-25) team, along with first-team veterans, to face Korea’s Busan I’Park FC in the tournament’s 5 p.m. opener today. "First and foremost, this is going to be a learning experience for our young team," said Skoko, who made 51 appearances for the Socceroos, the Australian National Team, including the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. "A lot of the boys haven’t traveled or experienced the different styles of play we’ll see here. "We want to try to keep the ball, be patient, play quickly and play forward. Of course, the goal is to win but we want to do the club proud." Much like its youthful players, Melbourne is in a maturing phase as it makes its international debut this week. Established in 2009, the club is in its third season and fighting for recognition and coverage with Australian Rules Football and rugby. "Australian Rules is big in Australia, but it’s massive in Melbourne. (It’s) what everyone talks about it," said Aloisi, the only Australian footballer to play in the three top European leagues (Italy’s Serie A, Spain’s La Liga and England’s Premier League). "And then when we go to Sydney, it’s Rugby Union and Rugby League that gets the attention. "We’re probably No. 2 in every city and our matches are also on pay television while the other sports are free to watch. But the sport is growing, it’s the most-played sport in Australia for girls and boys. What it’s going to take (to be No. 1) is for all those people who played to come to the games." The Heart’s first team draws around 8,000. Tonight’s anticipated crowd could be close to that and "that is going to be interesting for our young players," Aloisi said. "They’re excited, but also nervous. They’ve never played in this big of a stadium. "I am more concerned about what we do against the different styles of play that we’ll see. The young boys are going to get a lot out of this and we want to see if they can adapt." The Australians will have a size advantage, but the Koreans look to have an edge in speed. Aloisi said the adjustments will be made during the match, including a decision to continue playing his team’s style or adapt to that of Busan I’Park. "We know that we will have to defend a little differently," Aloisi said. "They will be quick and we can’t be compact as a team. "We’ve been practicing set pieces (preset plays usually used on free kicks, corners and throw-ins), which can be tedious but can also be so important in a game against a team that might be smaller than you. You need to take advantage of every set piece you get." The Heart also needs to take advantage of the experience it has in Aloisi and Skoko. Aloisi, who signed his first pro contract at age 16 in Belgium, made 55 appearances for the Socceroos, scoring a goal in the 2006 FIFA World Cup; Skoko played for the Socceroos for 10 years, including two World Cup qualifying campaigns. A capacity crowd (50,000) at Aloha Stadium wouldn’t daunt either, especially Skoko. What he considers his favorite memory as a player came when he scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Greece, a friendly played in front of 95,103 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Skoko has retired twice, the first time from international competition in 2007 after a friendly against Argentina. The other was last year after one season with the Heart as its inaugural Australian marquee player. "It is nice to be retired," he said. "I’ll play these two, then go enjoy Australia a little (after being away so much). And I’ll do a little coaching. I want to give back to the game." Previous Story Lin, Knicks rout Hawks 99-82, head to Miami Next Story Jeremy Lin wants to own the term 'Linsanity'