I didn’t exactly expect to watch live football in my first 2 days in Australia, but as an added bonus I did! On arrival at Sydney Airport, I noticed a light blue Sydney FC kit being sold in one of the shops, and with it a fixture list for the local team, which revealed they had a home match against Brisbane Roar just two days later. Still I thought nothing more of it, more a case of putting it to the back of my mind as we sook (past tense of seek) a bus from the airport to our hostel Chilli Blue, in the King’s Cross area of Sydney. We had a bit of jet lag, and once back at the hostel we had a few hours sleep. In our room (Room 12) was Martha, a lovely Colombian lady. Martha invited us to come out that night for a walk to Sydney Harbour and to see the Opera House, have a few drinks and maybe some food. Of course I was up for it.
There will be more on Sydney throughout this blog, and especially the crazy “Chilli Blue” hostel, but it was this night out with Martha, where I met Daniel Evans, from Derby, another lad who had just started his travelling here in Australia. Straight away we were talking about football and his team is Derby County. I mentioned the Sydney FC match that Sunday, still totally unsure if it was really “football” as we know it, and whether I’d got the date right. We were both up for it. It wasn’t the jetlag, as the internet confirmed. Sydney FC really did have a home match just 2 days later, a 5 pm kick off at Sydney Football Stadium (SFS).
We decided to go, and left the hostel early to see if we could find the stadium ok. I had bought a cheap Sydney map, which showed the stadium as being very close in a place called Moore’s Park. We set off from Chilli Blue hostel on Victoria Street, walking towards Oxford Street via our new local supermarket, Coles. I shopped at Coles all the time while living in Sydney. We got cheap water there, 99 cents for a 1.5 litre bottle, as well as some cheap cheese and bacon rolls and doughnuts that day. It was a cheap day of food spending actually, for once.
After 15 minutes or so walk, including passing a “Comber Street”, that significant as the name “Comber” is a wee Protestant town in County Down, Northern Ireland. The one where my Mum comes from, and a town famous for its potatoes – Comber Potatoes. After that a short brisk walk, in wet/windy weather we saw a big green park, where it looked like a cricket pitch, a football pitch and a rugby pitch all situated together in one area – Moore’s Park. The area it was in was called Paddington, another London reference here in Australia. We had found the stadium, we now wanted match tickets.
The ticket office was open, and there was no queue. A few kids lurked by, but we just got 2 tickets sorted, 25 Australian Dollars each for the cheapest ones, Unreserved Seating. It was actually quite a big game in what is known as the Hyundai A-League. At the time, Gold Coast United were top by one point with 11 games played, so Sydney had the chance to go top of the league. Brisbane Roar were 7th in the table and only a 3-0 win on the day and a defeat for Adelaide United would have saw them move up to 6th. Sydney were big favourites. We had a walk into the club shop and at this point lots of players wearing suits came out, with the kids running over asking for autographs. We had no idea who the players were, though we did look out for Dwight Yorke (who played in the last World Cup for Trinidad & Tobago, as well as starring for Blackburn, Manchester United and Aston Villa in years gone by). Dwight Yorke was probably the only Sydney FC player we’d have heard of. And anyway he had retired by this stage.
Just before we went in Daniel noticed 3 guys, 2 of them wearing Nottingham Forest shirts! How crazy that he should come all this way to watch a football match and the only shirts we saw other than Sydney shirts, were of his biggest rivals. He’s a Derby County fan! Once inside through the turnstile, we got photos by the Sydney Football Stadium sign, had a brief walk round then went on in through the mini turnstile, where you scan your barcode on your match ticket to get in. We had no real allocated seats, though my ticket says 2452 UNRESERVED. Match kick off was stated as 5 pm, entry and gates open at 2 pm. This is because in Australia, you actually get entry to 3 matches for the price. We didn’t know this, but just before we had arrived, the Sydney FC Youth Team had played their match. Once we got in, we saw the Sydney FC Women’s team playing live. This was the second match, so we sat down and watched a bit of it from the top of Section C which was unreserved and non alcohol seating. This match was slow, and though both sides had a few chances, it finished 1-1, the same score that it was when we got in, so we missed both goals. We were there to watch the main match anyway though, not the women’s match.
We bought a match programme each, they were 5 Dollars, and was more like two mini magazines. The first one featured that week of fixtures in the whole A-League, centring on the Sydney match. It was called Australian Football Weekly, and was Volume 2, Issue 12. Inside it was a magazine called The Full 90 which centred on the teams itself. They had the full details on each team in the league. I read them with interest, the league has just 10 teams: Newcastle United Jets, Central Coast Mariners, Melbourne Victory, Adelaide United, North Queensland Fury, Perth Glory, Wellington Phoenix, Gold Coast United, Sydney and Brisbane Roar. The star names as I could tell were Craig Moore (Brisbane Roar, ex-of Rangers), John Aloisi (Sydney, ex- of West Ham), Robbie Fowler (North Queensland Fury, ex- of Liverpool and Leeds United), Michael Bridges (Newcastle United Jets, ex- of Leeds United). It looked like an exciting league.
It must have been about the 20th different country I had watched live football in. It was great to be inside such a big stadium and watching football again. Eejits call it soccer, we use our feet, its football! When I first moved to Bournemouth to start a new life in 2003, within a week I had become a massive AFC Bournemouth fan, thanks to Warren Feeney, the Dean Court hardcore and my mate Austin Sheppard. Now, having moved to the other side of the world, and Australia, I would need to find another team to follow and fall in love with. For 25 Dollars a time, I couldn’t really afford or justify (as a working traveller) becoming a massive fan, but here I was giving it a try. I would support Sydney FC for the day.
After the women’s match finished and I’d eaten my bacon and cheese rolls, we thought we’d have a beer. Its a novelty for a start being able to watch live football with a beer in your hand. You certainly cannot do that in Northern Ireland, or in England. Its banned and its illegal. But here in Australia, you can have a beer in the bar, out the back, or bring it to your seat if you go to the “alcohol permitted” areas. I had given up alcohol for 6 months during 2009, and to be honest I didn’t miss it and enjoyed my break from it. I’ll never drink alcohol on a crazy level ever again, but since travelling again, I’ve been prone to try a few different beers in each country or place. This time, inside Sydney Football Stadium, we had a Schooner of VB each. They were 5 Dollars each, the normal price, we expected that. With beers in hand we walked this time round to the other side of the stadium and sat down in the alcohol zone while the players were warming up for the big game.
On the public address system and zooming in on the big screens, they announced that today Dwight Yorke was returning to Sydney FC to make a speech and have an appreciation of his success while playing there. You couldn’t have written a better script. It got even better. The next loud cheer was when Terry McFlynn came onto the screen. The presenter announced “Give it up for Sydney FC’s star player, NORTHERN IRISHMAN Terry McFlynn!” I couldn’t believe it. I was wearing my Northern Ireland shirt that day and there was a player on the Sydney team from Northern Ireland, not just that but one of the popular players. I remember my mate Millwall Neil told me that Sydney FC have a Northern Irish player, but I didn’t believe it or take much notice until now. If Terry McFlynn is Northern Irish, and a star at Sydney FC in the A-League, why is he never been called up for the Northern Ireland squad? And why had I never heard of him? He looked a bit like Tommy Doherty or Damien Johnson. Maybe I had a good reason to make Sydney FC my new team to follow….in a land down under.
Before the match started we wanted even better seats, and moved down to be closer the half way line. Then the teams came out, I gave a big cheer for Terry McFlynn and we started Dwight Yorke coming down the tunnel. He did his speech, thanked the Sydney FC fans and headed back into the stands for the match to begin. It started slowly. It wasn’t up to the same pace as even League Two in England. Both teams lacked a killer edge, definitely in the first 15 minutes. But after that was end to end stuff for a while, with both teams going close, and Brisbane blowing quite a few obvious scoring chances. Without much further ado, and one shot by Terry McFlynn, half time came along and it was 0-0.
Brisbane played in orange, Sydney in sky blue. The match attendance looked low for such a big stadium, but was announced as 8,456 which was decent enough on a wet Sunday in late October. The stadium holds over 40,000. Of the fans there, the Sydney FC hardcore were all in sky blue with big flags behind one of the nets, in a reserved area. They did the bouncy a few times and were quite loud. Brisbane Roar had a low away turnout, a hardcore of less than 30 fans I’d have thought, but then it is a hell of a long way to travel to watch a football match. Australia ain’t exactly England. The Brisbane Orange Army were loud enough, and we thought of joining them for the second half. We did walk down towards their section behind the other nets, but decided just to stay on the Sydney home side, this time we watched the second half from the other side of the pitch.
With Sydney playing down towards their fans, they started to take control. The first goal came amid loud cheers, and within 20 minutes it was 2-0 and looking like game over. Both goals were clever, the first a well placed shot past the keeper, the second a low shot to complete a good move. Towards the end Brisbane Roar really did rally, grabbing a goal with 5 minutes to go. In injury time, it was all Brisbane pressure and they missed some great chances and hit the post, before the referee blew the final whistle. Sydney FC and Terry McFlynn were top of the league! In the only match I’ve seen since loving to Australia. I didn’t buy a shirt or scarf or become a hardcore Sydney FC fan. I’m now living in Parramatta, maybe there’s a local team here instead to take my fancy. Anyway cheers to Terry McFlynn and Sydney FC for a great day out.
Who went – Jonny Blair, Daniel Evans
Nationalities Met – Australian, English
Final Score – Sydney FC 2-1 Brisbane Roar
League – A – League
Celebrity Speaker – Dwight Yorke
Attendance – 8,456
Cost of Day Out – 40 Dollars (25 $ ticket, 5$ beer, 5$ programme, 5$ lunch from Coles)
Beers Tried – VB
Sydney FC 1-1 Brisbane Roar – clip from Women’s Match:
Sydney FC v. Brisbane Roar Warm Up:
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