On Monday I booked my ticket to the May 24 clash between Sydney FC and Liverpool at ANZ stadium. As a member, matches like these are the reasons you pay your yearly subscription.
As the central venue for the 2000 Sydney Olympics prepares for a face lift and reconfiguration, the upcoming matches got me thinking about the wonderful football experiences I have had in my three years as a member.
My membership is linked with a friend’s and we will sit together on the night, watching some of the world’s best in action against my boys from Moore Park Road and hopefully we show them a thing or two.
The exact makeup of the Liverpool team that will take to the pitch is a mystery at this stage, yet hopefully it drips of quality and the Reds put on a terrific show just days after their domestic season has wrapped up.
My colleague is a Liverpool supporter and will surely join in the singing of that catchy little tune the Liverpool fans belt out before each game with passion and pride. I can’t quite think of the name of it right now. Something about walking I think.
Whatever the hype around that moment, the Reds fans will be drowned out by the booming voices of a Sydney crowd, fresh from holding aloft the local ‘toilet seat’ as champions for 2016/17. The hordes that will turn up will heavily outweigh support for the visitors.
Not sure it would even be worth setting up a merchandise store for the visitors, so few and far between their supporters will be.
In all seriousness, it will be a great spectacle and another moment that I will feel privileged to have witnessed. ANZ Stadium has been doing this to me quite a bit recently and whetting my football appetite in the post season, spurring on interest and passion for the recommencement of the A-League in October.
Australia has somehow become an attractive post season destination for teams at the end of their domestic European seasons. Whether they be visiting China or the Middle East as well, or coming down-under alone, it seems teams are enjoying the end of season trip and are fascinated by the world wide adoration which they receive.
The comments of the Liverpool ‘legends’ who played at ANZ in July 2016, reflected their amazement at the passion and knowledge shown by Australian supporters, despite being so far removed from the origins of Liverpool.
Moreover, the squad that will visit in May will be stunned by the reception. Even though I will be in the members with my Sydney FC scarf and a lovely shiraz, hoping for a local victory, I will still get a kick out of seeing one of the most famous clubs in the world on my patch.
Over the last three years I have attended some wonderful football moments at ANZ Stadium and ticked off some bucket list teams for a football tragic.
Tottenham Hotspur were too good for Sydney in late May 2015 and the sky blues backed up a few days later against the then EPL Champions Chelsea, in another tightly fought contest.
One of my regrets is not seeing my beloved West Ham United on their southern hemisphere tour. Their match with Sydney took place in Wellington in July of 2014.
The Liverpool ‘legends’ match was outstanding and seeing Ian Rush was a highlight. He still had all the football smarts that he displayed weekly on home soil and none of us will ever forget the jewel in the crown of Australian football, the Socceroos’ performance and ultimate victory at the 2015 Asian Cup.
Matches at the quarter and semi-final stages as well as the most glorious final, saw ANZ provide the pitch on which the Socceroos finally climbed to the top of Asian football.
It was a shame that the visit of the Greek team last year was ruined by abysmal weather and a pitch reflective of the conditions.
With Arsenal and Liverpool still to come in 2017, my membership and the football experiences I am afforded by it, keep me well satisfied.
When you throw in the Sydney derbies and other selected A-League matches such as the Wanderers versus Victory clash last Saturday and the odd match that Sydney FC have played at the Homebush precinct, the stadium has served me well.
Indeed, it was a humble A-League clash between Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets in January 2016, that cemented a love of football in both of my kids.
The only real downside I see is the scheduling of World Cup qualifiers that appear to be directed elsewhere for a variety of reasons. Adelaide Oval, Etihad Stadium and the MCG will all host matches this year and at this stage, no matches are slated for ANZ.
With an extra league team, the Parramatta Eels, playing matches there this season, the wear and tear on the surface will increase.
No doubt, the concerns over the Allianz surface expressed by both Ange Postecoglou and Graham Arnold cause trepidation when football is scheduled in East Sydney and the poor surface for the Greek international at ANZ last year might lure the FFA to ‘safer’ venues.
This is a little sad and really nobody’s fault, more a byproduct of Sydney’s market, modern stadiums and a very busy schedule through the rugby league season. Let’s hope good weather dominates the winter months and one of the late qualifiers can be played at our biggest stadium.
As preparations take place for the stadium reconfiguration of ANZ, many footballing memories come to mind.
Since the penalty that saw the Socceroos through to the World Cup for the first time in… well, what seemed like forever, all the way through to the tours of major European teams, ANZ has been an important part of the football discourse in this country.
Watching Liverpool FC and Arsenal this year will be another two teams off the bucket list for this fan, next step will be trips to Wembley, Cardiff, Augusta National and Le Tour de France, after which, I can die a very happy man.
P.S – For those kind hearted souls who wanted updates, Mount St Benedict’s under 14 girls began the season with a 2-0 win against the Wombats on Sunday.