A derby without true Heart

Nick Symonds Roar Rookie

By Nick Symonds, Nick Symonds is a Roar Rookie

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    There are many derbies around the world but the Melbourne Derby is perhaps the most baffling. Unlike most rivalries that are based on geographic, class, political or religious differences, the Melbourne Derby has none of these.

    In fact, the Melbourne Heart were seemingly created for no other reason than to give Melbourne a derby by providing a local rival for the Victory.

    The only way that I can make any sense of it is that the Melbourne Heart bid team must have been fans of Seinfeld.

    To show you what I mean, this is how I imagine that their pitch to FFA must have gone:

    FFA: So you’re making a bid for a new team in Melbourne.

    Heart bid: Yes.

    FFA: So tell us then, what’s your bid all about?

    Heart bid: Nothing.

    FFA: Nothing?

    Heart bid: Yep. Nothing.

    FFA: How can it be about nothing?

    Heart bid: We want to do something different. All the other teams want to be about something, we’re going to be about nothing.

    FFA: But it can’t just be about nothing it has to be about something. What angle are you going for, is it some kind of class thing between rich and poor?

    Heart bid: Nope.

    FFA: Is it political, the left versus the right?

    Heart bid: No. Nothing like that.

    FFA: Is it sectarian, Protestants versus Catholics, like the Old Firm Derby?

    Heart bid: Not that either.

    FFA: So if it’s not based on class, politics or religion then it must be geographic, one half of the city against the other.

    Heart bid: Not at all. They’ll be playing out of the same stadium as Melbourne Victory.

    FFA: The same stadium!?

    Heart bid: Yep.

    FFA: But you need a point of difference from the other team.

    Heart bid: No you don’t.

    FFA: Look, there needs to be a clear point of difference from the other team so that you can build a backstory around why these two teams hate each other, and so that broadcasters and the news media can have a hook to build up the rivalry on.

    Heart bid: You don’t need a story, there’s no story.

    FFA: Then how are we meant to build up the rivalry if there’s no story behind it?

    Heart bid: You just talk about whatever happens on the field.

    FFA: What do you mean? Just whatever happens between them from game to game like goals, fouls, wins and losses, that kind of thing?

    Heart bid: There’s your story!

    FFA: So let’s get this straight. You’re proposing that we add a new team in Melbourne that has no clear point of difference from the current one, and that we build up and market the rivalry between them based purely on what happens on the field, with no backstory?

    Heart bid: Exactly!

    FFA: But it’s a derby about nothing.

    Heart bid: That’s the idea!

    FFA: So why would anybody want to watch this?

    Heart bid: Because it’s on TV!

    But wait, there’s more
    While this imagined conversation might apply to Melbourne Heart, you might be thinking to yourself that things must have improved now that City Football Group have taken them over. But I disagree.

    CFG makes it even worse
    At first Melbourne Heart were practically meaningless, but CFG by buying them out and re-branding them doesn’t help at all. Originally Melbourne Heart tried to claim that they were a more authentic team for purists. But that makes no sense for a plastic team created out of nowhere for a league that’s been likened by its detractors to Whose Line is it Anyway because ‘the teams are made up and the points don’t really matter.’

    The takeover by CFG has merely added to the problem. They have reduced or taken away any connection that Heart fans had and the new team, Melbourne City, are simply a cog in CFG’s global empire. An ownership group which epitomises everything about modern football. Not something that appeals to purists.

    Furthermore, in a desperate attempt to establish a new identity Melbourne City tried to market themselves to young people by getting a street poet to recite an “ode to Melbourne’s virtues” outside the National Gallery of Victoria during their launch, no doubt to appeal to hipsters.

    So here you have a merger between a team trying to appeal to purists by calling itself authentic and a global mega business that has modern football written all over it trying to convince young people to join them because they’re the team for cool people.

    The following quote from the film Exit Through the Giftshop sums it up perfectly:

    “Warhol repeated iconic images until they became meaningless, but there was still something iconic about them. Thierry (Mr Brainwash) really makes them meaningless.” – Banksy

    A total eclipse of the heart?
    While some may think that the Heart have been eclipsed by City never to be seen or heard from again, it’s important to remember that an eclipse is only ever temporary. There are still Heart fans who aren’t happy with the change, and they could break away and form a protest club if they wish to do so, like FC United of Manchester. Maybe they could call it Heart of Melbourne.

    They could play matches at Lakeside Stadium where South Melbourne are based, a club who tried to buy out their A-League license. Should be a good derby.

    But it still won’t be as good as The Derby About Nothing against Victory which is a bit like when two characters on a sitcom hate each other for no reason like Colonel Chestbridge and Claire in Danger 5.

    If Heart are ever to return they need to avoid the mistakes of the past. What went wrong the first time around was that things went off the rails as soon as they tried to be something they weren’t.

    Heart were created simply to be a rival for Victory so that Melbourne could have a derby and nothing more. Having an identity was simply an afterthought, so as soon as people started trying to define one there were always problems.

    If Heart make a comeback they need to stick to being a team that stands for nothing unlike all the other teams who try to be about something, that’s what makes Heart special and they should embrace that.

    In the words of Ali G, they need to “keep it real”.

    By being a team that stands for nothing, Heart can be all things to all people unlike all the other teams who can only be some things to some people. Yarraside just need to stick to their guns and keep on believing.

    Heart might be gone for now, but maybe, just maybe, they could one day come back once again. There’s no other club quite like them and there’s no other derby quite like The Derby About Nothing.

    The creation of Melbourne Heart was so bizarre that they could even become a cult club known internationally like FC St. Pauli or SD Eibar. Melbourne City never will.

    Melbourne Heart might not have been the most successful club but at least they were quintessentially Melbournian and had they ever won a trophy it would have been a trophy won for Melbourne. With Melbourne City, I can’t help but feel like it would just be another trophy for CFG.

    Some fans might be happy that Melbourne City have money, but they don’t have any ticker.

    All they have is a Yoshi, some EPL wannabes… and a bunch of hipsters.

    I’ll leave the final word to a Heart fan who came around to accepting CFG’s money that came with the change to City above all else.

    “A football club is something people have an emotional attachment to but it does become increasingly harder when that club doesn’t represent or appear to be the same that you started to support. Whatever decision you make you need to understand CFG will do whatever they want, when they want with or without your involvement.” – David Hards

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    The Crowd Says (8)

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 3:35pm
      Glen said | January 22nd 2018 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

      It was red v blue. But they took that away. Now blue v blue.

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 8:02pm
      Frank said | January 22nd 2018 @ 8:02pm | ! Report

      Hilarious read – well done Nick. If it wasn’t for CGG’s involvement Melb City , Heart ….whatever they’re supposed to be ?? they would be another Gold Coast waiting to happen. The rivalry has already lost its fabricated appeal.
      Long live MV!!!

      • January 22nd 2018 @ 9:35pm
        G5 said | January 22nd 2018 @ 9:35pm | ! Report

        So wrong Frank, we had plenty of $. We lacked experience and imagination to bring equity to MV indisputable dominance. We would have survived, thrived and won, but CFG is beyond reproach as a great new owner.

    • Roar Guru

      January 22nd 2018 @ 9:33pm
      Cousin Claudio said | January 22nd 2018 @ 9:33pm | ! Report

      Who’s higher on the ladder this season?

      The Melbourne derby is based on geography, as you said. 2 teams in the same major city.

      Victory may have more fans for now, but wait till City start winning more games and being more consistent.

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 10:03pm
      Freddie said | January 22nd 2018 @ 10:03pm | ! Report

      Nothing article. Shall we just get rid of them then? Wellington too because they don’t offer much and are Kiwi? Mariners because they are too small? What about Perth for being too far away?

      Clubs all around the world go through changes in their early years. Man United weren’t always United, they were Newton Heath between 1878 and 1902 (24 years of history in comparison to Heart’s 4!) and played in green and yellow. Even Real Madrid (formed 1902) weren’t “Real” until 1920, being plain old Madrid FC until then. Juventus wore pink and black before changing to black and white stripes, inspired by Notts County.

      A-League clubs are babies, relatively speaking. They are still forging their identities, albeit in a more modern, inter-connected and business-influenced sporting world. History takes time. Patience.

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 10:34pm
      Kangajets said | January 22nd 2018 @ 10:34pm | ! Report

      Well said Freddie

    • January 23rd 2018 @ 7:10am
      AR said | January 23rd 2018 @ 7:10am | ! Report

      The first half of this article – homage to Seinfeld – is comfortably the best thing Nick has written on The Roar.

      Well done!

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