Football, a game shunned by Australia’s
media and discounted as sport’s ugly stepsister, is now getting publicity for
all the right reasons, from places it would have least expected.

The sport’s bosses would no doubt be
grinning from ear to ear with the latest result in the A-League’s finals
series, which will see Sydney FC host the grand final at Aussie Stadium after
downing Adelaide United in a two-legged major semi-final playoff, with the
return leg last night at home in front of a competition-record crowd of 30,377.

Sitting among the enthusiastic Sydney fans
behind the southern goal, there was a distinct hint of the kind of atmosphere
that made the Socceroos’ historic World Cup qualification victory at Telstra
Stadium last November such an unforgettable spectacle.

Scanning the noisy section of the crowd, it
was clear Sydney FC and the A-League have succeeded in attracting the type of
fan that corporate Australia is keen on – in a nutshell, people aged from
their teens to mid-30s from an diverse mix of ethnic backgrounds, including an
above average share of females.

The sea of blue suggested fans’ willingness
to invest in club merchandise, as well as harness the unique ability of
amber-coloured liquid to lubricate the vocal chords for non-stop sing-a-longs,
including a show of appreciation for star player, Dwight Yorke, who has
concerned club management with plans to travel abroad ahead of the grand final, to play in a FIFA-sanctioned
friendly for Trinidad and Tobago.

Finally, fans in what the club has labelled “The Cove”, offered a decisive showing of dedication when Sydney put away the
second goal in its 2-1 victory, many sacrificing their refreshments in a beer
shower during post-goal celebrations.

Adelaide will get a second crack at progressing through to the final at Aussie
Stadium on 5 March when it plays Central Coast at Hindmarsh Stadium in the preliminary
final on 26 February.

Peter Fray

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