News, views and abuse from Australia
In an adventurous pre-game promo, Football Federation Australia billed it is as “football’s biggest rivalry.” Forget the Premier League or the World Cup finals – apparently Adelaide United versus Melbourne Victory is the pinnacle of the game.
But in the wake of a heated clash between two of the A-League’s fiercest rivals, it was hyperbole of a different kind gracing the website of the Adelaide Advertiser.
“Ban soccer hooligans” read one bizarre post-match headline, although whether that was an impassioned plea or the result of some lazy sub-editing is anyone’s guess.
However, there was nothing ambiguous about the nightly news bulletins, and the fact that 29 fans were ejected from a near-capacity crowd of 15,038 at Hindmarsh Stadium was quoted with as much frequency as the 2-0 scoreline to Melbourne.
The Advertiser employed some comical YouTube footage to illustrate the threat of rabid football fans, although it mainly leaves viewers with the impression that Adelaide fans hate Melbourne supporters because they’re Victorian.
In fact, apart from some footage of pimply-faced teenagers being dragged away by police officers, there was very little to suggest the sky was falling due to the actions of a few rowdy A-League fans.
Such is the Australian mainstream media, though, with its vested interests in the more prominent sports of cricket, Australian Rules football and the National Rugby League.
There’s a wonderful passage in Matthew Hall’s book “The Away Game” that illustrates the relish with which mainstream Australia denigrates football fans.
In it, Hall relates the story of a lone intoxicated fan ejected from a National Soccer League game at Wollongong’s WIN Stadium after being subdued by a posse of capsicum-spray wielding police.
The presiding judge latter saw fit to label it one of the worst cases of “European soccer violence” he’d ever encountered in Australia.
The man’s crime? Muttering the word “testicles” at the seemingly terrified officers.
Hall ponders the hysteria associated with Australia’s football supporters from high up in the stands of the Stadio Olimpico, as he takes in a typically chaotic Rome derby amidst knife-wielding Lazio fans and their flare-lobbing Roma counterparts.
But while A-League fans rightly condemn the sensationalist headlines that accompany anti-social fan behaviour, there’s no denying that such behaviour is cannon fodder for the daily news.
So it was with an exasperated air that fans of both Adelaide and Melbourne hit the message boards in the wake of this fiery clash, to lament the fact that those accused of throwing bottles and ripping flares are “once a year” types.
Like the recent Carling Cup clash that attracted so many West Ham and Millwall thugs to the Boleyn Ground, the meeting of Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory has become a beacon for those looking to revel in the edgier side of the game.
Melbourne Victory, in particular, have a reputation for attracting hooligans.
When police attempted to check the ID of one fan inside Hindmarsh Stadium – who may have been the subject of a banning order – his refusal to co-operate led to a scuffle with police that resulted in most of the ejections.
For all the off-field shenanighans, the match itself failed to reach any great heights.
From the moment Nick Ward beat former Victory keeper Eugene Galekovic with a freak cross-come-shot from the touchline barely seven minutes in, it always looked set to be a one-sided affair.
Nevertheless it took until the final minute of play for Grant Brebner to confirm the result as he slammed home from a scrappy build-up, by which time the police were more concerned with the prospect of keeping the two sets of supporters apart.
They didn’t do too well, by all accounts, with officers marching the visiting fans straight into a crowd of angry Adelaide supporters.
Cue more juvenile taunts and threats of violence – all appropriately dealt with by the local constabulary, who were no doubt prepared for the animosity given the history of the two clubs.
There are far worse problems in Australian society than the relatively minor threat of football fans coming to blows.
But while the rest of us could only laugh at Hollywood’s rendition of football violence, some A-League fans clearly regard Green Street Hooligans as a movie of the utmost biographical importance.
It is these fans who are causing headaches for officials, as they continue to wreak havoc with the FFA’s vision of a sanitised, family-friendly A-League.
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This is a Melbourne fan here who was present at the match on Friday evening in Adelaide. Although I have no qualms with the majority of your article, as I in fact agree with most of it, there is one part of it which I will have to correct you.
You seem to lay much of the blame on 'Melbourne Victory hooligans'. Although I'll admit us as fans are not angels all the time, I believe we are hardly to blame for what occurred on Friday night. In the stadium, in particular, I believe it should be noted that the Melbourne fan *did* co-operate with security and police as much as was reasonable. It was the police who instigated and caused the trouble inside the stadium, and I completely lay the blame upon them. When the Melbourne fan simply asked why he was going to be ejected (NB: he had done nothing wrong, nor knew anything about a banning order), a grand total of one time, a particular policeman in question reached over to the Melbourne fan and violently dragged him down two rows of seats, where this fan was then punched by not just this policeman, but also two Weslo security guards. Whilst this fan was defenceless, the policeman then decided to use capsicum spray on the fan, from 2 cm away from his eyes. Of course the rest of Melbourne fans are going to react to this display of sheer police brutality. Heck, even some Adelaide fans were telling the police to calm down. This is where all the trouble from the stadium originated. NOT from the fans of Melbourne, but because of the plainly idiotic and stupid tactics of the South Australian police force - as well as the security firm, Weslo, and "risk-management" group hired by FFA, Hatamoto.
If the FFA, and football fans as a whole, are sick of seeing trouble like this holding back our wonderful game, then maybe they should open their eyes up further and realise that not all of the trouble stems from fans - often it arises from the very people who are supposed to be there to protect us.
Thanks for your comment and for offering Melbourne's side of the story.
Personally I don't have any problems with Victory supporters.
The problem is, having been labelled 'trouble makers' in the past, Victory fans arrive at every away venue in the country with a reputation that precedes them.
It's exactly that reputation that sees guys like Rugby League writer turned South Australian AFL scribe (?!) Tim Hilferty head out to an A-League ground in the hope of landing a juicy story.
Bear in mind that this was his FIRST article for "The Punch."
The heavy-handed tactics employed (by private security firms, in particular) is an on-going problem in the A-League.
But whenever there's a small minority of fans willing to engage in anti-social behaviour - regardless of their club allegiance - we're going to have to put up with headlines of "Hooligan riots" in the mainstream media every time.
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