Tinderbox at Allianz for A-League fans as Victory, Sky Blues, Reds bring a promoter’s dream double header
Hats off to whoever birthed the idea of having Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC and Adelaide United involved in A-League matches on the same night and at the same ground, it is a stonking idea!
Throw the reigning champions Central Coast Mariners into the mix and the evening looks potentially one of the best ever in the history of the competition.
Despite three of the teams being far from home and not advantaged by the venue in a traditional sense, the travelling support will be considerable and destined to fuel what will be a curious and unique atmosphere.
Passions run deep in Big Blue clashes, where deep loathing between the two shades of the colour is embraced by fans and at times, celebrated in a rather vicious manner. The same can be said of the Original Rivalry, where good old-fashioned mutual hatred and mistrust of Victorians and South Australians bubbles over.
Whilst the A-League may have struggled to forge these tribal narratives early on in its history, they are now well and truly ingrained after nearly 20 years of play.
There IS something more on the line and at stake during the fixtures and much like a Sydney Derby, where the Wanderers fans lift their game and create the best A-League atmosphere of all, the matches are so important to the overall health of the competition.
That history will create something of a tinderbox on Saturday night.
Travelling Victory folk will empty from local establishments and set up camp at Allianz to face not only the Mariners, but also fans of the red team they detest. The more polite Adelaide folk will give as good as they get, with a sprinkle of neutrals also present for the 5:15pm (AEDT) kick-off.
The sky-blue wave of support will most likely arrive a little after that, with the cove egotistically demanding all eyes be fixed on them upon arrival.
It could well be one of the most interesting scenes ever confected in the A-League; Sydney FC fans entering their home stadium and being booed from all-corners. Frankly, I’m lathered with excitement to see it.
And not to forget the wild, crazy Coastie battlers from Gosford, who are still buzzing after the A-League Championship won back in June of 2023.
They too will add another instrument to the din; certain to be present in strong numbers after already pulling some solid crowds at Industree Group Stadium this season.
With a capacity of 45,500, Allianz will be rocking, with the brief lull between the matches the only potential spanner in the works.
Something near a half-hour window will exist between the completion of the Victory and Mariners clash and the second match, with plenty of foot traffic and patience required when it comes to ticketing and food and beverage outlets.
I am hoping the fans in red and sky blue folk avoid a late entry and are in early, ferociously barracking against the Mariners and Victory, before the tables are turned and Sydney FC and Adelaide feel the heat of the simmering tinderbox.
In a rather comical image, I keep seeing a punter turning in one direction, launching a barrage at Victory, then back the other way to sling a stereotypical slur at Sydney FC and then finish off the performance with a quip about the quality of tap water in South Australia.
Frankly, for those who do enjoy attending the football and engaging in the banter for which the game is so well known, Saturday night could well feel like something of a second Christmas.
Whatever does happen during the cross-over period as the opening match goes deep into the second half and the kick-off time for the second fixture looms, let’s hope the stadium is close to full at some stage.
That would be a sight to see and a wonderful tip of the cap to the APL’s daring initiative to imitate the concept of bringing the competition together on a given weekend, as other codes have done successfully over the last few years.
Saturday is a no-brainer and the fans will be there in force. Less convincing is Friday night at CommBank Stadium, where the Wanderers and Bulls faithful will be forced to provide almost all the atmosphere against two teams with very little support.
Sunday also looks a little like a fingers-crossed situation for the APL, with two matches running concurrently in the evening and A-League Women’s matches played as curtain-raisers.
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Hopefully, fans of the Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers’ women’s teams do stick around for the second fixture. Otherwise, the elation of Saturday night might be interpreted negatively in some quarters.
Light the match I say, get the tinderbox smoking ASAP and see just what this concept can create on Saturday. Hopefully, the fans are as parochial as ever, yet also possessing that tinge of common sense that sport sometimes affects.