At his press conference after beating Japan 2-1 last night Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek reiterated how great the Melbourne Cricket Ground is to play at. Whether the MCG is Verbeek’s favourite Australian ground is unknown, but should Australia be successful in its bid for the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup the decision as to where the final is to be played will provide the mother of all headaches for the Football Federation of Australia.
“If you play at home, at such a great stadium with so many fans coming to this game then you want to win this game,” Verbeek said.
Indeed, the MCG is a brilliant and magical place to watch sport; but Sydney’s Stadium Australia has its fans too, given that Sydney is the FFA’s home and Australia’s marquee city, and is probably a better ground to watch a game of football.
In the days leading up to Japan vs. Australia match, FFA CEO Ben Buckley urged Victorians to vote with their feet by attending the MCG showdown.
The Herald Sun reported:
“In a week that we’ve launched the World Cup bid it’s a great opportunity for Melburnians to show why they say it’s the sports capital of Australia,” Mr Buckley said. “We’re getting close to having our final venues in place.”
He said strict FIFA regulations require a World Cup final to be played at a stadium boasting a minimum capacity of 80,000, leaving the MCG and Homebush as the only options.
If Australia wins the right to host a World Cup — the whole Sydney vs. Melbourne thing will kick into overdrive as to who should host the World Cup final. But despite the love in the room for the G last night, there are serious questions over the suitability of the ground.
As Greg Baum wrote in The Age today:
For a live contest, the MCG would have been the only ground. For this, it looked what it is, awkwardly adapted for soccer. In it, a crowd of 70,000 looked patchy and the action remote and displaced.
Baum has a point: the MCG is so big that to sit at the top of the Great Southern Stand would require the Hubble Telescope to follow the play.
And while a World Cup final atmosphere would warrant the attendence alone, you would feel aggrieved at getting a ticket to the game only to watch it on the giant plasma inside the ground. It’s first and foremost an AFL and cricket venue.
So let’s compare Stadium Australia and the MCG vs the great football stadiums in the world:
The MCG, Melbourne, Australia (capacity: just over 100,000):
Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia (capacity 83,500):
Nou Camp, Barcelona, Spain (capacity, 98,772):
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales (74,500):
Soccer City, Johannesburg, South Africa (still under construction its where the 2010 World Cup final will be played) (capacity, 91,141):
The most obvious difference is that our grounds are oval and not custom built for a rectangle game.
And if they MCG are to host the World Cup they may have to have a word to MCG security. At about half way through the first half last night I was removed, along with a Turkish journalist from Zaman, from my seat because the Zaman journalist was taking photos. He wasn’t wearing a “photographers bib” (he wasn’t aware of the MCG and FFA’s strict media guidelines) — and we were escorted by four burly security guards to the media centre while they checked our credentials.
He had unknowingly done the wrong thing and was removed. I was escorted out by association. And as I checked the TV screen to watch the game, one guard told me I wasn’t allowed to watch.
The FFA quickly and professionally sorted it out — we both returned to our seats in the second half — but I missed about 10 minutes of the game.
But that didn’t dent a truly brilliant night. Australia was on top of the world (well at least five points clear on top of Asia) and South Africa beckons.