Melbourne City vs. Sydney FC
I recently attended my first 'soccer' match in Australia, and let me tell you I was shocked; it could not be more different than going to the football at home.
Before you come down under everyone will tell you how friendly Australians are, and for the most part this is entirely true, perhaps it's the sun, the beaches, the constant throwing of shrimps on the barbie, all the flamin' gallars or being able to wear cork hats everywhere. I don't know, but whatever the reason, they are a people I have generally found to be polite, cheery and helpful.
However I never noticed this in contrast to home to such an extent as I did at the soccer - their behaviour was ridiculous!
A quick side note here; please don't be offended dear English readers - I know some of you were about to give in to that seemingly unstoppable urge that all English football fans have to tell you 'ITS CALLED FOOTBALL' if you dare to utter the word 'soccer' in their presence, especially as a British National - that sparks further indignation - however for the purposes of this post I will be referring to the football here as soccer, and the football at home as football, okay?! Don't worry I know its all football really ....
Anyway, back to the game in hand: we arrived, got a beer, and headed to the stalls (so far so similar) but then it all changed...
As we took our seats we were instructed to sing along to the club's song to welcome the players onto the pitch. I am not now entirely sure what I expected (well if I am being honest I was hoping for some sort of Australian archetype such as Waltzing Matilda...); however I know that I definitely did not see it coming when the speakers started blaring 'Happy Together' by The Turtles, made more surreal by the appearance of a karaoke set of sing-a-long lyrics on the big screens. No seriously, this actually happened. And whats more, everyone sang along! From the groups of big bellied middle aged men to the would-be football hooligan lads on holiday, everyone sang their little hearts out together .... what cheese!
After this interesting experience the game commenced, and I must admit that even I could tell this was not the same standard as the English Premier League, despite the heralded appearance of David Villa... However, it was sunny and I had a beer in a plastic cup so I was content.
Being not the biggest football fan, I tend to be a terrible crowd watcher at these sorts of events; I was once rebuked by a boyfriend's younger brother for suggesting the difficulty of playing Where's Wally at the Arsenal stadium. I thought I was being hilarious, but as a serious 13 year old football fan he was less than amused.
As a 'crowd watcher' I have noticed that at home there is a real sense of rivalry to the football. The particular chants that stick in my mind from games I attended as a child or watched on tv, are;
'The referees a wanker!'
and 'You're shit and you know you are!'
(which are always yelled towards the pitch with a real sense of anger).
Meanwhile, the main chant that frequently surfaced throughout the game here seemed to go something like this;
'We love you, we love you, we love you, and that's the way we like it, we like it, we like it'.
This wasn't even chanted remotely sarcastically. I couldn't believe it either...
A real sense of overbearing positivity characterised the atmosphere of the crowd, which I really did not expect, particularly for a fairly dull 90 minutes ending 1-0.
Overwhelming positivity and not a whiff of the English criticism that very much characterises the premier league, where were the football hooligans? the taunts?
It was a fun day out, and a very positive experience, but it felt lacking, and I must say, somewhat perversely perhaps, I really missed the downright rudeness of English football fans; I wanted someone to hurl insults at the pitch, I wanted a fight, I wanted a riot, I wanted to feel competition and rivalry.
Yet, more than anything else, I wanted to be watching the game whilst enjoying a real European beer and sitting with my dad; (and of course to be in the pissing rain, freezing cold and involved a massive punch up....)