Photographer Joe Castro from AAP
People may expect me to feel despondent after my team, Melbourne Victory lost its first ever derby with the new Melbourne team Melbourne Heart, but in fact I was in a fairly cheerful mood as I was cycling home up Wellington St climbing Clifton Hill. But the fact is that while I care about Melbourne Victory, I care about Australian Association Football even more, and overall I felt that old cliche that ‘football is the winner’ was true.
Of course I would have preferred that Melbourne Victory won, but there was one thing I feared more than a Victory loss, that the first Melbourne derby was a fizzer. The A-League has been beset by plenty of bad news recently and the last thing it needed is this ‘big event’ being a non-event. I was heartened (maybe I shouldn’t use anything with ‘heart’ in it!) when I heard that the match was a virtual sellout by Thursday. But the I got worried that the game wouldn’t be commensurate to the media interest and hype.
Fortunately the match was what the doctor ordered. It had goals, it was entertaining and it had plenty of atmosphere. Personally I was doubtful whether we needed another Melbourne team which didn’t have any feature whether geographical or cultural that differentiates itself from Victory. However the fans were there and in good voice which made a great atmosphere. Now Melbourne Heart is a reality, and its viability as a team is part of the success of the A-League as a whole.
Photographer Theo Karanikos
There was another reason why I felt happy on Friday night, the fact that not only the fans were vocal and came in numbers, but they were there in good spirits. For the first time in a football match I felt like I was at an AFL match because for the first time supporters of both teams were together. Hearing opposition fans nearby with scarves hats etc. of different colours to Melbourne Victory bagging Victory players was a novelty (also hearing Muscat being booed!) But even more important another good thing that came out of the game is that opposition fans mixed (and I even saw mates from both teams sitting together) with no problems at all. This was something anti-football AFL types threw back at us, stating that we needed to be segregated because otherwise incidents would occur. Well since last night that shows that’s not true. I always liked the fact that in the AFL fans mix, and shows that perhaps we are creating our own Australian way of supporting the world game.
Other bloggers opinions about the game: victoryblog is disappointed with the tactics. Phil osopher shares with me the belief that ‘football was the winner’. Neil says that Victory didn’t step up to the big occasion, while Vingear Hill gives a fairly impassionate report of the game despite being a Victory fan.