Football hooligans? Here we go again

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So the Western Sydney Wanderers wanted an authentic, European-style home end? Good luck with that. Thanks to the actions of a select few, the A-League’s ‘newest, oldest club’ has just taken 20 steps in the wrong direction.

It was meant to be a good news day – another step forward for the team that Australian football is pinning its hopes on.

The unveiling of two new Croatian imports, the 132nd anniversary of the game that inspired the name, the original Wanderers versus King’s School.

Instead, some deluded thugs have spilled blood, caused unnecessary trouble and muddied the image of the sport they claim as a religion.

Now come the inevitable and oh so predictable cries that football – or soccer, because you know that’s what it gets called at times like these – is dirty, dangerous and filled to the brim with drunken, violent hooligans.

Of course, that’s not true. But that’s how it looks now. And a new batch of morons have kindly handed the sections of the media that don’t give a damn about the world game some more ammunition.

The full details of what happened off the pitch at Tuesday night’s pre-season friendly between Sydney FC and Macarthur are yet to emerge.

But quite frankly, they are irrelevant.

It doesn’t matter who threw the first punch, or the first flare, or who finished the fight, or who threw a bin or a rock or whatever, in whichever direction.

What matters is that a man and a child have been needlessly hurt at a game of football, and that is completely unacceptable.

This is not 1980s England. We’re talking about a school night in south-west Sydney, and a rivalry that does not yet exist between one club that is less than 10 years old and another that is only here because of government funding and circumstance.

We’re talking about a game that Wanderers fans had no business even attending.

We’re talking about two teams from a competition that is struggling to keep its head above water – one with much, much more important issues than this.

And – of course – we’re talking about another incident that has given a whole bunch of fence-sitting fans a new reason why they shouldn’t sign up for an inaugural Western Sydney membership.

Nice work.

The A-League needs a strong Sydney derby with boisterous fans, witty chants and an electric atmosphere. Active support is football’s point of difference from the other codes.

But it will now be more difficult than ever for that to happen, because now the actions of fools on Tuesday night have guaranteed attention from over-zealous security officers who do not understand football.

Ask Melbourne Victory fans about their experiences with Hatamoto. It’s your turn now, Sydney.

Since day one, there have been calls for supporters groups to start policing themselves – and granted, some clubs like Sydney FC do it well – but elsewhere it rarely happens.

Why? Because they maintain a code of silence, as if they are part of some kind of demented childish mafia. Nobody wants to dob on their friends, so nobody does. And so the mischief continues.

These troublemakers have no place in society, let alone football.

The clubs and FFA, after another round of bad press, have no choice but to come down hard and weed out the rogue elements however possible, before more damage is done.

However, it is the fans who need to take a look in the mirror and ask themselves this question – do I want my sport to thrive, or is it more important that I play out my Green Street fantasies at the expense of everyone else?

The only way this will end is if it is stamped out from within. Otherwise, football will be forever chasing its tail.

For the record, Sydney beat Macarthur 3-1 and apparently showed some good signs for the season ahead. Some would do well to remember that is why we’re all here.

Vince Rugari is an Adelaide-born journalist who cut his teeth on the sporting graveyard of the Gold Coast. He fancies the round ball and the Sherrin, and used to be a handy leg-spin bowler before injury curtailed a baggy green push. A Port Adelaide fan by birth, he now is a sports reporter for The Cairns Post.
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