Adrian Mariappa, the veteran Jamaican defender, has made a shock lucrative career finale move to Australia with Macarthur FC.
The 35-year-old, a free agent after being ditched by English Championship outfit Bristol City in May, had been on the wanted list of a number of other second tier sides before the A-League team swooped for his services.
The experienced centre back, despite being without a club, had been busy playing for Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.
He has chalked up 58 international appearances, including seven as skipper, since his making his debut in 2012.
English-born Mariappa, who qualified to represent Jamaica courtesy of his maternal grandparents who live in the Caribbean, has spent his entire career in top two divisions in England. So playing in another continent, for Macarthur FC, will be a very different ball game.
He could be thrown in at the deep end when his new club tackle Central Coast Mariners, a side that Jamaican icon Usain Bolt had trials with, on 5 December for what will be only their third game of the new campaign.
Macarthur FC head coach Ante Milicic said: “I’m looking forward to seeing Adrian settle into the squad and contribute to the team throughout the A-League season.
“I’m thrilled that the club has been able to secure a player of Adrian’s quality and experience. I’m most certain that he will make a seamless adjustment given the career he has had so far.”
Mariappa kicked off his football path at the age of nine with Watford. He progressed through their youth academy to make his senior debut as an eager teenager during their League Cup success over Notts County in 2005.
He played seven seasons overall for the team, which included winning promotion to the English Premier League (EPL). He was their captain and scooped the club’s prestigious Player of the Year award in 2012, which prompted Reading to sign him during the summer having earned their EPL berth.
But Reading were relegated after just one season with Mariappa making 33 appearances, including 29 EPL games, and the defender moved to Crystal Palace before returning to Watford in 2016.
During his second spell at Watford he helped guide them to the 2019 FA Cup final. Yet he was surprisingly not offered a new deal by head coach Vladimir Ivic following their EPL relegation.
The club failed to issue a statement confirming Mariappa’s exit, despite having been with them for 20 years overall and having made a staggering 340 senior appearances that made him a firm favourite with their fans.
Months later the Watford chairman Scott Duxbury admitted at a supporters open forum that “it had been a huge mistake” to not tell them that the stalwart defender had left.
Mariappa was on the hunt for a new club and initially arrived on a short-term deal at Bristol City in November 2020. Head coach Dean Holden extended the contract until the end of the season but he was soon replaced by Nigel Pearson, who Mariappa had previously worked with at Watford. Mariappa was released at the end of the 2020-21 season, and was recently under the radar of a handful of ambitious Championship sides until Macarthur FC came calling.
Mariappa explained: “When the opportunity arrived, it was one I couldn’t turn down. It’s an exciting new challenge for me in my career and that for me is what I thrive off.
“I’m hungry to achieve great things with the club and create new memories with the team and the fans.”
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