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RBB goes wandering

DerbySFS

The second-ever A-League Sydney derby was a wanderful (sorry) night at the football. It was full of colour, flare (again, sorry), excitement, passion, and a great performance from the visiting side. As I so eloquently put it after the game, it was much better than the previous derby “because we won”.

It was a great night for the red and black half of Sydney. Two goals, including the first in front of the RBB (from memory, feel free to correct me here – not counting the Melbourne Heart own goal) from none other than captain Michael Beauchamp, a clean sheet, and a win over the cross-city rival – what more could you want?

Amazingly, I predicted many of these things in a blog post from almost two years ago.

It was incredible to be part of. I’ve never seen so many supporters at a regular season fixture in Australia stick around after the final whistle to congratulate and celebrate with their heroes. That entire end of the stadium was rocking.

It was such a positive and supportive environment. Rowdy? Yes. But it didn’t feel violent or threatening. There was a party atmosphere.  Regardless of race or cultural background, if you were in red and black, you were welcomed into the fold with open arms.

It’s one of the amazing things about the world game. I highly doubt you’d be able to find such a diverse range of cultures in the one place supporting the one cause (in this case, the team) anywhere else around the world.

Even when exiting the stadium, despite being crammed into the tight spaces of Allianz Stadium, everyone was orderly, and everyone was chanting. Hearing the name of the club’s Japanese hero bounce around the stadium’s passageways was quite an experience.

Despite this, the predictable fear campaign played out in certain areas of the press the following day. There seemed to be a couple fights that broke out in the crowd. As to who was involved, neither the RBB or Cove were a part of it, as said fights broke out in the middle (neutral) blocks of the stadium.

The whole flare issue was the focus, and yes, they’re absolutely dangerous when thrown onto the pitch or into the crowd. Wait, into the crowd? They were thrown from the crowd.

Regardless, they can turn from an object of celebration to destruction if they land in the wrong place. I also accept that they play a role in creating an atmosphere, but this can also be created through other means. I’d like to point out that I never felt threatened or endangered in any way, but know things can take a turn for the worse rather quickly.

The fans who bring flares to the ground are obviously passionate and are some of the most vocal supporters of the club. Which is why they should understand the crucial role they have to play in building the club’s identity, particularly during its infancy.

Just because other football fans around the world utilise flares, doesn’t mean we have to in Australia. Parramatta Stadium is quickly becoming an imposing ground to visit for away teams, as it should. As the RBB’s numbers grow, this will only be more pronounced.

The trade off between what flares bring to the game and the spectacle versus crowd and player safety is subjective, but surely the latter is of greater importance. Either way, in this area, things can’t remain the same. Something has got to give.

The RBB and Wanderers as a whole have done such a wonderful job so far in establishing a club western Sydney can be proud of. Let’s not allow flares to hold the club back from becoming the cornerstone of the A-League.

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