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Melbourne's new rivalry will revive the A-League

Roar Guru
29th October, 2009
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4284 Reads
The new coach of A-league team John van't Schip (right) takes questions from the media in Melbourne, Monday, Oct. 12, 2009. Dutchman van't Schip has been appointed coach of Melbourne Heart team whose syndicate hopes to gain entry to the Soccer A-League. AAP Image/Julian Smith

The new coach of A-league team John van't Schip (right) takes questions from the media in Melbourne, Monday, Oct. 12, 2009. Dutchman van't Schip has been appointed coach of Melbourne Heart team whose syndicate hopes to gain entry to the Soccer A-League. AAP Image/Julian Smith

So Melbourne Heart wants a piece of Mark Viduka and Josip Skoko? They’ve also expressed passing interest in Michael Petkovic and Ljubo Milicevic.

Can Football Federation Australia check the licence again and make sure “heart” wasn’t a typo? It wasn’t Melbourne Hajduk, was it?

In all seriousness, though, the FFA would be well served getting as many teams into Melbourne as possible, thinly disguised minority social clubs or not, simply because it’s the only part of Australia where football seems to be doing alright. Elsewhere it’s going down the toilet. Attendances and atmosphere are at pitiful lows for the A-League. The game, let’s not mince words, is in a bit of trouble.

I was talking to Les Murray in Sydney today about why he thought Melbourne had got it right when no one else could and his answer was simple: “They embraced the ethnics, Jess. You go to a Victory match and they’re all there: the Croats, the Greeks, the Macedonians, even the Asians. They’re all there. And they love it. Melbourne is like no other city in Australia.”

There’s been a suggestion that Melbourne Heart might undermine the position of Melbourne Victory and undoubtedly it will affect it to some degree but I can only see its presence in Australia’s greatest sporting city as a boon for the sport and a challenge to the hegemony of the AFL in Victoria. Not to mention a true derby that doesn’t need the FFA’s already overtaxed spin doctors to pump it up.

The club has recruited a very credentialled manager in John van ‘t Schip (ex Ajax, Genoa, Oranje), signalling its intentions immediately, and appointed a very capable administrator in John Didulica, former legal counsel at the FFA, one-time PFA chief executive, brother of Joey and Melbourne Knights and Sydney United player. Combined with a chief executive with AFL experience, Scott Munn, and a moneybags in “colourful racing identity” Peter Sidwell and you have the makings of something potentially great (and, blessedly, an extra annoyance to the AFL).

If anything can drag A-League football out of its current malaise, it’s something born in Melbourne.

I’m curious, though, about the connection between Sidwell and Phil Wolanski, a member of the FFA board. Both have been mentioned in media reports as owners of the Sutton Grange operation near Bendigo.

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All well and good so far.

The only thing Heart needs right now is a new name. Roar, Fury, Glory, Victory, Heart? When’s all this crap from the minds of American marketing jackasses going to cease? The results of the competition to find a new one can’t come a moment too soon.

But for now let’s wish everyone attached to the new club good luck and hope they can deliver, unlike Gold Coast, on what they promise.

The A-League will thank them for it.