For the next 12 weeks or so, the city is Sky Blue. Or so supporters one side of the derby like to say.
In fact, it is quite a strong shade of blue after a dominant second half that produced four goals and saw Graham Arnold’s men walk away with a crushing victory.
The article I wrote last week about the opening round derby was obviously written with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.
My companion for the night was genuinely excited about his first derby experience and many other Roarers commented about guests and friends they were taking along for the first time.
However, after what we observed on the night, the tone of this article will be considerably different.
A few things shocked and disappointed him and raised my eyebrows as well. We did our normal thing and parked our car at Newington and walked the kilometre and a half across to the stadium well ahead of game time.
On our walk, we could hear the chants and songs of the Wanderers supporters who had decided to meet and walk across to the stadium.
I tried to convey a sense of the atmosphere he was about to encounter, yet this proved a tough sell after numerous police cars roared past and took a hard left towards the centre of the Homebush precinct.
We weren’t sure what was going on at that point, but I felt a little uneasy and for the first time, questioned my ability to engage a cynical, yet potentially new, fan to the game.
The sight of a riot squad vehicle snailing its way through the gathering masses as we walked towards our gate surprised us both. In all our time attending ANZ for rugby league, AFL or rugby union games, neither of us could ever remember seeing such a strong police presence outside the ground.
I was unsure why this was the case; there didn’t appear to be any trouble and surely there wouldn’t be any nonsense on such an enormous night for A-League football, right?
The buzz inside the ground was pulsating in the half hour before kick-off and the slightly late start helped build that further. Sadly, I can see a day in the future where A-League kick-off times are pushed back to somewhere near 8:30pm as is the case in other commercialised codes.
The first half began at a decent tempo and produced some entertaining football. Sydney seemed dominant in the first 12 or so minutes yet the Wanderers started to find their short passing game in traffic and created a couple of half-chances.
Jumpei Kusukami and Mitch Nichols began to look dangerous, yet the width Sydney FC were able to exploit on the flanks did look more potent than what the Wanderers were able to throw at their well-organised defence.
We sat at the RBB end of the ground in the ANZ members section on level four. The committed fans didn’t let us down as they sang from the pregame through to half time and the Sydney FC voices were well and truly drowned out by the din.
Dave was intrigued by the lack of attention paid to the actual game by the RBB and asked me, “do they even watch the game?”
I assured him they do.
I was more interested in a banner that hung from the upper tier directly behind the RBB in the first half. It read, ‘Our birth was your death.’
The ‘death’ was highlighted in spine-tingling blood red and the font was a copy of the ‘chiller’ variety available in Microsoft Word. I assumed the banner was a reference to the two clubs.
Why the RBB feel the need to express such negativity and vitriol towards the other club which helps create the greatest football derby in the nation is beyond me. Both clubs need each other and the FFA needs the fixture.
The death of either of the club would be a disaster for the A-League and ‘pie in the sky’ stuff considering both clubs are strong and look set to compete for finals places come 2017.
Mysteriously the sign came down early in the game.
Five minutes into the second half, my incredible ability to walk out of a room and immediately bring about a goal during televised A-League matches was once again on show in spades, as FC found the net through Filip Holosko after fifty minutes.
Upon my return, someone in the guts of the RBB lit a flare and security ran from all quarters with metal buckets waiting in the vicinity. Apparently, this event had been prepared for well in advance.
Before the smoke had settled, Aritz Borda was caught impersonating a fire hydrant and Bobo slotted a second from inside the six-yard box.
There was stunned silence among the RBB for a period, yet they reignited as their team found their run and attacked with a vigour that was absent earlier in the contest. They used better width and some decisive and crisp passing, yet the FC defensive structure held solid, as it did throughout the night.
Two late goals in the final ten minutes sealed the deal for the Sky Blues and the energy was slowly sapped from the game.
Wanderers’ fans corralled into one of their many chants which attack their Sydney rivals.
As the game slowly slipped away, chants of ‘f*** off east Sydney’ rang from somewhere behind me and I couldn’t help but glance at the cute little kids seated nearby, looking lovingly up towards their dads, adorned in both Sydney and Wanderers kits, wondering what the words meant.
A second flare was captured earlier than the first and dunked in the bucket well before it could provide any sort of entertainment for the RBB. A late Alex Brosque goal rounded off a four-goal victory.
As derbies go, it had all the required energy, tension and vigour, yet it was the passion side of things that interested me.
The RBB seem to want to make the entire contest about them. That’s not what passion for a team is all about.
Passion is being there when the club is struggling. Passion is being a Swans fan in the early nineties when they literally couldn’t win a game. It’s seeing them climb the ladder to a grand final in 1996 and a period of sustained success from then on.
Passion is being born, raised and educated in an area and loving the team that represents those roots. In my case, that’s the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
How dare the RBB attempt to establish their form of passion as the barometer for fans. For every flare, banner or finger gesture, there is a football fan sitting quietly in the stands watching the strategic manoeuvres of coaches and admiring the skilful attributes of players.
I am not so ignorant to think that it is only fans of the Wanderers who behave in this manner, yet when clubs take the step of writing to their own fans and requesting their behaviour be curbed, it is safe to say we have a problem.
The statement on the Wanderers’ own website is crystal clear about crowd behaviour and acknowledges the few hundred buffoons who fail to get the message. Despite this, the club has escaped sanction once again, and it beggars belief.
Passion isn’t letting off dangerous flares – that’s actually a crime. Supporting a team isn’t shouting vitriolic words into the ears of fans who are more interested in actually watching the game. Nor is it slurring opposition teams in complete ignorance of what they actually bring to the contest.
These are, in fact, acts of hooliganism, something that Australia should be well above, considering our perceived history of fair play.
As good a night as my colleague had at his first ever derby, unfortunately, I fear, he won’t be back. As long as the RBB persist in attempting to draw attention to themselves and the FFA fail to act, they will continue to put a downer on what is fast becoming one of the greatest sporting spectacles in the country.