Time for Victory to meet Old Soccer again

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Marco Rojas of Melbourne Victory (centre) celebrates after scoring a goal against Newcastle Jets during the A League round 13, Melbourne Victory v Newcastle Jets, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012. (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

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While most attention over the next week will centre on Melbourne Victory’s upcoming blockbuster clash with English giants Liverpool, it is some lesser-known local clubs which the A-League side is not playing that continues to leave some fans perplexed.

Since its first game of competitive football more than eight years ago, Victory has only played off once against either of Melbourne’s former football heavyweights, South Melbourne and Melbourne Knights.

The reason for the lack of fixtures stem from the Football Federation of Australia (FFA), who are hesitant to sign off on matches between Victory and the two historic clubs now battling it out in the Victorian Premier League.

It is likely this reluctance is driven out of a fear for the potential outbreak of crowd trouble and consequently, the damaging of the game’s so-called ‘brand’.

But, really, is this anxiety justified?

The only previous history between these clubs suggests the FFA may be missing out on a grand opportunity to bridge the current divide between ‘Old Soccer’ and ‘New Football’.

This Saturday will mark six years since that solitary occasion, when more than 9,000 turned out to witness former National Soccer League (NSL) powerhouses South Melbourne play host to the new boys in town, Victory.

That’s right – 9,000 spectators.

Oh, and did I mention it occurred at Bob Jane Stadium (now known as Lakeside Stadium) on a cold, wintry midweek evening?

The excitement surrounding the game at the time was palpable.

The queue to get in stretched dozens of metres outside. Articles about the game even surfaced in Melbourne’s major daily newspapers prior to kick-off.

For a moment, it was easy to forget this was a mere practice match against a state side featuring a vastly-depleted line-up.

Indeed, there were some minor disturbances on the evening that need mentioning: a scuffle began between some supporters that was quickly broken up by police; while a flare lobbed onto the pitch by Victory fans struck an unsuspecting South Melbourne defender in the back.

Although these occurrences sound far from pleasant, they are easily preventable with simple and effective security measures.

And if the authorities can get it right, what a spectacle we could be in for.

Imagine the atmosphere from the inevitable thousands that would turn out if Victory were to travel to Somers Street to take on four-time NSL premiers Melbourne Knights.

Moreover, envisage the cash that could be raised for these local Victorian clubs from gate and canteen sales.

It is worth noting Knights has hosted A-League competition before when it twice faced off against Melbourne Heart – once in 2011 and once last year.

A healthy crowd was attracted on both occasions, but it would be nothing on the turnout if the opponent was two-time A-League champions and the heavily-supported Victory.

With the prospect of an FFA Cup mooted for 2014, and even a second-tier “B-League” competition in the coming years, it appears inevitable that Victory will take to the pitch against South Melbourne or Knights sooner or later.

So, FFA, why not save us the hassle?

The time has come to be brave and finally gift us football fanatics the fixtures we have patiently been waiting for over the last eight years.

With the right planning, there should be little to worry about.

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