Last night a tumultuous day in the life of Australian football ended with a showdown on the pitch and off the pitch in Brisbane. On the pitch nearly 11,000 people at Suncorp stadium witnessed a gripping arm wrestle between Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Heart.
The home team went into the break leading 1–0 but with the early exit of game’s most influential midfielder, goalscorer Mitch Nichols, Melbourne Heart wrested control of the game in the second half.
Heart, playing with a 4-3-1-2 formation, pressed deep lying midfielder Erik Paartalu and broke up the Roar’s passing game. They were rewarded after young defender Curtis Good levelled the scores with his first A-League goal, and then looked the most likely to grab all three points.
However the Roar, as is their custom, turned it around late in the game. They made a retreating Heart defence suffer and were rewarded with an injury time penalty.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Clint Bolton the Heart custodian stared down the penalty taker, Bahraini international Mohammed Adnan. It was a text book study of how to coolly control a situation and get into the head of your opponent.
Bolton guessed correctly as an out-psyched Adnan hit the penalty at a comfortable height and close to the keeper.
The penalty was saved and Heart fans rejoiced at a precious point earned in their quest for a finals spot.
Central Coast Mariners fans rejoiced as their team remained top of the table and one step closer to winning this season’s A-League premiership.
And all around Australia football fans rejoiced at yet another act of heroics from one of football’s genuine good guys.
Only last Wednesday night, he was yet again, donating his time at the Football Media Association’s trivia night to raise funds for Canteen, a charity for young people living with cancer. (He also gives $100 to Canteen every time he has a clean sheet.)
Earlier in the evening football fans celebrated when the Supreme Court in Brisbane dismissed Clive Palmer’s injunction to maintain control of Gold Coast United after the FFA had terminated his license last Wednesday.
Justice Jean Dalton said the comments made by Palmer particularly on February 19 and 20 were so serious she considered them to be a material breach of the FFA’s A-League participation agreement.
The utter gracelessness of the billionaire’s actions and behaviour over the last two weeks has turned off almost the entire football community.
This was epitomised on last Thursday with Clive Palmer going off half-cocked as self-appointed saviour of the game with the establishment of Football Australia.
The reaction from the chairmen of A-League clubs was damning.
“What a stupid and mindless entity and not even the dumbest of dumb would take this entity seriously,” said Adelaide United chairman Greg Griffin.
Melbourne Victory chairman Anthony Di Pietro, himself no stranger to the critical spotlight this season, also took a strong stance in opposition to Palmer’s comments.
“The establishment of a separate football body and the airing of club matters, that should be managed privately, are divisive and counter-productive to the growth, development and future of football in Australia.”
“We, along with all clubs, have made an investment in the code and we have to protect our members, shareholders, sponsors and fans. We will keep challenging the FFA to grow the game, create best-practice governance and really compete with the other football codes, but the only way forward is together,” said Di Pietro.
And finally, the measured critique from the chairman of the Central Coast Mariners, Peter Turnbull.
“There are many points raised by Clive Palmer that have merit, and indeed they have been raised and discussed between the owners, and with the FFA on several occasions. But other issues raised by Clive do not – the manner of their raising is also most unfortunate and simply not helpful.”
“There is no doubt that after seven years of ever-increasing losses, the owners’ stamina and willingness to donate to the cause of football is wearing thin.”
“While these losses mount, there is a need for the owners to be in more control of how their investment is managed, as they are the ones in reality that are fronting the bills on a daily basis for all football followers.
“Two government reports and the original PFA (Professional Footballers Australia) model have demanded it, and the FFA have now promised it. We can only achieve change in a unified manner with the FFA.” said Turnbull.
Welcome examples of sagacity from the A-League chairmen. This was not the case when individuals with axes to grind, justifiable or otherwise, displayed seriously poor judgement by jumping on Palmer’s bandwagon of balderdash.
How else can you explain former A-League Chairman Archie Fraser’s decision to become Palmer’s right hand man at Football Australia.
On February 18 he was asked on Twitter, “Would you take a position with GCU if Clive made commitment to not interfere with actual operation of the club?”
“I would not work for him regardless of how much he paid or offered – if he was out different story!” Archie Fraser replied.
Or unfortunate opinion pieces from the fourth estate like this by Jesse Fink, “On behalf of the Australian football family, Clive, break a leg.”
In the aftermath of the failed injunction Jesse Fink tweeted, “Keep fighting the bastards, #ClivePalmer.”
According to the old proverb – The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The problem arises when the enemy you choose to further your goals turns out to have no credibility.
As a very wise mother once famously said, “He is not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy! Now go away!”
Clive Palmer should have taken a leaf out of the Clint Bolton playbook by playing it cool and with humility. He didn’t.
To football fans he is now a football zero.
Athas Zafiris is on Twitter @ArtSapphire