Friday, 29 November 2019

Moments of the Decade - Zero To Hero

As the 2010s come to a close, and as Sydney FC celebrate their 15th A-League season I thought it'd be a cracking time to look back on the last 10 years and pick some of the moments of the decade.

Everything that happened from January 1st 2010 until December 31st 2019. During that period of 3651 days we've seen 5 managers, 4 captains, 3 chief executive officers, 2 Slovakian cult heroes, and 1 unforgettable night in Perth. Here's just one the great tales from the decade...

2010

February: Zero To Hero

In late January 2010, it looked for all the world like Sydney wouldn't be able to get their hands on the Premier's Plate - several points behind Gold Coast United (R.I.P.) in 2nd and eternal rivals Melbourne Victory in 1st. For Sydney to have any chance at winning the plate, they'd need miracles both in their two remaining regular season games (both must win), and in both Queensland and Victoria. 

Kristian Rees, John Aloisi, and Michael Thwaite. I miss 2009/10.


February 7th was the first step for Vitezslav Lavicka's Sydney. At "home" to Perth Glory at Parramatta Stadium in the city's west. Sydney went ahead on 24 minutes after Shannon Cole was tripped in the box, and captain Steve Corica buried his penalty past a then rookie Tando Velaphi. The lead didn't make it to half-time, with Wayne Srhoj scoring 2 minutes into first half stoppage time to level it up. 

Sydney needed their big men - particularly marquee striker John Aloisi - to step up. Aloisi had underperformed for the majority of his time in Sydney and just could not find consistency. 3 minutes after the break, he had one of the great near phantom goals - his shot clearly went in, crossed the line and all, but was cleared through the side-netting by a Glory defender. A clear goal given (and without usage of video assistant referee). 

Yet again, Glory hit back through a young Daniel McBreen in the 80th minute. Sydney looked doomed to draw the match and hand the title to Melbourne Victory. But cometh the hour, cometh the man. Centreback Stephan Keller's inch-perfect cross met John Aloisi's head, and it flew into the net in the 87th minute. 3 points in the bag. Elsewhere, Gold Coast United (who were then equal on points with 1st place Victory) lost 1-0 at home to Wellington Phoenix. With Victory winning their game that round as well, it all went down to the final day of the 2009/10 - a Round 27 Big Blue.

Whoever the A-League scriptwriter was who set up a Big Blue in Round 27 must have been pretty bloody pleased with themselves when it ended up being the premiership decider. Victory needed just a draw to win a back-to-back premiership. Whilst they were without their captain Kevin Muscat who was rested and struggled without a consistent striker, they still had a star-studded squad with Adrian Leijer, a young Robbie Kruse, Carlos Hernandez, and a very dependable Grant Brebner. 

It was a cagey affair to start off with, and claimed Steve Corica as a victim just 20 minutes in. The Sydney captain suffered a hamstring strain and couldn't play on. Brendan Gan subbed on in his place, and John Aloisi handed the armband whilst Slovakian international Karol Kisel moved more into a #10 role. 

A throw-in for Victory deep in their defensive half found the head of McFlynn, whose header met Brosque's, who squared it for Karol Kisel who took on the volley and looped it over a young Mitch Langerak to "draw first blood", as commentator Simon Hill emphatically called. Just Kisel's second goal for the club and what a goal it was. 



Sydney under Lavicka were a well-oiled machine and workmanlike. A very defence-minded manager, Lavicka boasted one of the best back-fours in the country with Simon Colosimo, Stephan Keller, Shannon Cole, and Sung-Hwan Byun. Sydney conceded just 23 goals that season, and kept 11 clean sheets with the ever reliable Clint Bolton between the sticks. 

The Sky Blues stayed firmly in the driver's seat after Kisel's opener, heading into half-time 1-0 up.

3 minutes after the break, a weak cross-field Carlos Hernandez pass played across the paddock failed to meet its desired target, and was intercepted by Terry McFlynn who knocked it forward towards halfway. Picked up by John Aloisi who took a quick touch, turned past Leigh Broxham and bolted forward. His quick pair of heels powered on, and as he closed down on goal he looked up, and let rip with his trusty left peg with his shot firing into the top corner. Cue Bay 23 delirium. A strike of the highest quality from the marquee, who once again answered the call when needed the most. 



A 2-0 win over our bitter, bitter rivals - pipping at the post them to the premiership at the very death. Not only cementing the Big Blue's importance to the A-League - but slowly but surely increasing the importance of the Premier's Plate in Australian football.

Never before, and never again, in Sydney's history has the biblical phrase "cometh the hour, cometh the man" felt more fitting than with John Aloisi. A man who lived for the big occasion and finally delivered in Australia at club level when needed the most. 

The annals of Sky Blue history will remember February 2010 almost as its own chapter - it was one hell of a ride as a supporter. Football at its best is moments and situations like in the 2009/10 A-League season. A close title race also brought Sydney a stand-out regular season crowd too, with over 25,000 at Moore Park Road on a wet, windy, and iconic February afternoon in the harbour city.

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Thank you for reading the first of the "Moments of the Decade" series. I'm planning on publishing one every 2-3 weeks or quicker if possible. I really enjoy the nostalgia factor and I hope you do too. 

Thank you to everyone who has supported me via reading, sharing an article, or donating to ASOTH. It's all greatly appreciated. 

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin or ASOTH at @asothdotcom. I'm currently on the lookout for someone to administrate the instagram page for ASOTH. If you're interested, send me a message. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Australian Football and Homophobia

I recently came back from a lovely weekend in Perth to see friends and follow Sydney FC, watching them in a fairly enjoyable 3-1 win. Unfortunately for most fans, it was marred by the usage of video assistant referee which took up a majority of the conversation post game.

For me, however, what stuck in my head was a poor experience on my way out of the ground which unfortunately something I've grown fairly used to whilst following Sydney FC, and just being a football supporter, and who I am - homophobic slurs and abuse.




We left HBF Park after doing the celebrations with the players, and made our way around to get to the Brisbane Hotel for post-game drinks. We walked past a group of young men, probably in their mid 20s, who decided to yell "faggot", "poof", and a few other slurs at us. I was sort of unfortunately numb to it as it happened. This has happened far more than is acceptable at football. If it weren't for being in a group, I genuinely feared briefly for my safety. A bunch of both pissed off and pissed up young men targeting you is not an ideal situation and took the glow away from what was a big win for us travelling Sydney supporters.

Homophobic abuse has been too commonly experienced for me as a football fan. I'd previously experienced in the Sydney Derby, away in Adelaide and in Brisbane. I'm averaging 3-4 incidents of abuse a season. This is just not acceptable and goes against what the strength of the A-League and football is - our sense of community, multiculturalism, and acceptance. Johnny Warren famously titled his book "Sheilas, Wogs, and Poofters" which detailed how mainstream Australia viewed and looked down upon football. Football was deemed not a manly game, and for migrants and not "Australian" by Australian culture. The fact some people within our game use such terms is highly depressing.

For football supporters in Australia, Johnny Warren's book resonated deeply. Generally football supporters in this country are demonised by mainstream media and we need to stick together and protect each other. Every time I've had one of these incidents I feel like the game has betrayed itself and that we don't really want football to succeed. In the 2010s homophobia, racism, and sexism has become more and more frowned upon and people more likely to be pulled up for being a dick. But seemingly not in football. We don't focus enough in particular on shutting out the homophobic abuse.

I'm sick of the abuse and I'm sick of how often this has become a normal experience. I strongly believe football clubs need to take a stronger step to stop homophobic abuse and make football clubs and football communities safe places where abuse isn't tolerated. I'd love to see the A-League, W-League and FFA step up its commitment to Pride in Sport and actively have a round dedicated to standing up against homophobia - similar to how the English Premier League, English Football League, and FA have partnered with Stonewall. Rainbow captains armbands, charity collections for LGBT foundations, and rainbow laces - for just one week at least. Make marginalised people feel welcome and help stop the abuse. Awareness is a powerful tool to stop homophobia and racism, let's utilise it.

I remember being incredibly proud of my club, Sydney FC in 2017 when they had members from Flying Bats and Sydney Rangers come onto the pitch pre-game with rainbow flags to celebrate Mardi Gras and show support for the LGBT community. I feel at home when I see a rainbow flag at Sydney and makes me know where I am is an accepting space and that abuse won't be tolerated. I want this to become the case wherever I go for Sydney games.

I know I'm not alone in my experiences dealing with homophobic abuse while supporting Sydney FC or just football. It's time we actively challenged the abuse and tried harder, stepped up, and made it clear as a community we won't accept it. At the moment, I see the community as neutral bystanders.

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Perth has typically always been a terrific away day to do, as the 99% of locals are incredibly welcoming (hell, they invite you to their pub!) and one of my best away experiences was in Perth back in 2016. Whilst I'm very disappointed with what happened on Saturday night, it doesn't detract from my overall view of Perth Glory or the city of Perth or the people.

For this weekend I'm in Geelong for the Western United away game and really keen to check out Kardinia Park and what Western United is like as an awayday. Hopefully I'll see some of you there.

This has been a far more personal post than usual, but it'd been stuck in my head since it happened. Thank you for reading it.

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Double Big Blue Review

On an overcast day in Sydney, it still shone Sky Blue as both the W-League and A-League sides triumphed over Melbourne Victory in two tough Big Blues.

W-LEAGUE



Sydney opened their season with a fairly comprehensive 3-0 win over last year's premiers Melbourne Victory. Remy Siemsen scored the opener in the fourth minute, after Caitlin Foord found space and danced into the box, before laying it off for Siemsen who slotted it calmly past Dumont. 

The Sky Blues weren't on top of the game, but were defensively solid and didn't allow Victory much room for anything. Victory were lacking a playmaker and just could not get meaningful chances. Bledsoe didn't have much to do ultimately. 

Sydney doubled their lead in the 22nd minute, with Caitlin Foord teeing up Remy Siemsen yet again - this time with a great diagonal cross into the box which Siemsen headed home. Foord was consistently dangerous, constantly running at defenders and finding space, and getting the ball into dangerous areas. 

Late in the second half, young Shay Evans was subbed on for Remy Siemsen. She made a great impact on the match, and scored her first goal in the W-League in the 92nd minute. A pinpoint cross found her, and she nodded it home. Cue ballistic celebrations. One of the most special moments I've seen. Seeing a young Aboriginal footballer play and score in the national competition is really something. Historic moment for Shay Evans, indigenous football, and Australian sport. The start of a wonderful career. Glad I was there for it. 

An ultimately comfortable win for Sydney, and with so many players still to come back it is very pleasing to pick up 3 points against a full strength Victory side. Next up is a trip away to Adelaide on Friday night. Adelaide were unlucky not to come away with a point in their opener against Wanderers and I expect them (as usual) to be fairly tight. They gained Mary Fowler up front who already looks to be an astute acquisition. 

Final score: Sydney FC (3) def. Melbourne Victory (0)
MOTM: Remy Siemsen

A-LEAGUE


Despite an incredibly poor first half, Sydney came out the other end to claim a priceless 2-1 win over bitter rivals Melbourne Victory. Victory were ravaged with injuries and international call-ups and Marco Kurz set up a highly defensive side.

Ola Toivonen scored for Victory against the run of play just before half-time, and with how dour the match was it was hard to see Sydney getting into it. They just didn't play their style effectively.

Paulo Retre found mixed fortunes playing at left-back again, with his ability to win the ball still there, and he is still good at getting forward and getting back - he just isn't a left back. Having to turn to your favoured foot every cross is not ideal. Zullo coming on to replace him in the 70th minute was cause for joy, as the leftback returns from a quad injury. 

Sydney found the equaliser through Adam le Fondre, with a Brandon O'Neill corner meeting the head of Alex Wilkinson which squared it for le Fondre to head home. A well worked goal, and yet another one from a set piece. From there Sydney seemed to click a bit.

The eventual winner came about after Sydney really stuck to their playing philosophy. Neat passing in the final third, dynamic full-backs and a good killer ball. O'Neill involved again as his diagonal ball into the box found the run of Rhyan Grant at the far post who unselfishly squared it for Kosta Barbarouses - whose initial effort hit the bar but was then tapped home. Who else could it be? 

Barbarouses was immense in the second half, winning a lot of 50/50s and driving forward alongside his strike partner le Fondre. The two of them are showing some great signs and when they went forward Victory didn't have much they could do to stop them. 

I'm still a bit concerned over the performances of Baumjohann at right midfield. I don't think he's made for the position - at least not when playing very defensive teams. Anthony Caceres did well when he replaced him, and I'd like to see him start next week in place of Baumjohann. 

A very very important 3 points in the long run. Not playing your best and still getting the win is a sign of a champion team - last year we never truly showed up except for the Semi Final and still won the toilet seat. Credit to Corica for an effective team talk at half-time, with le Fondre being involved much more from the outset of the second half.

Luke Brattan I thought put in a terrific shift. Constantly getting involved, played the ball well, and was the only player to perform in both halves. Been very good for us since he signed. 

Next up is Perth Glory away. A rematch of the uneventful 2019 Grand Final. Perth haven't found much rhythm but always have it in them. Looking forward to it.

Final score: Sydney FC (2) def. Melbourne Victory (1)
MOTM: Luke Brattan


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A successful weekend in Sky Blue, with our W-League side top of the table, and the A-League side just a point behind Melbourne City at the top. 

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin or ASOTH at @asothdotcom. 

Keep an eye out for more content on both here and the twitter account. Got some exciting things I'm working on, and really appreciate everyone who chucks a follow, like, read, or retweet to ASOTH.