Expansion is constantly brought up in football circles and every time it does one name is brought up and repeated resoundingly; Canberra.
For some reason the majority are convinced that an A-League team in Canberra would be a godsend to Australian football, while the more obvious choice of Wollongong is only mentioned in passing.
Here’s why putting an A-League team in the Gong over one in our capital is a better idea.
Picture if you will, a slightly intoxicated amateur football writer stumbling out of Cooney’s, he walks around the corner and up the road to a little kebab shop called Esen, proudly displayed on their wall is a signed Wollongong Wolves shirt from after one of their grand final victories.
Despite the fact the win was years ago and the Wolves are no longer competing at a national level the kit is proudly displayed, the store also had some Socceroos memorabilia behind the counter.
This is The Gong, a city built on industry which made it a favoured destination for immigrants in the 50’s and 60’s, home of many cultures, religions (My old suburb had 4 different Orthodox churches in it) And customs.
The tradition of immigration is continuing, with many people flocking to Wollongong from around the world to attend the University of Wollongong, some of which like it so much they stay.
Even Les Murray, the voice of football, made his home in Wollongong upon his arrival to Australia.
Back to the culture on the ground, be it the couple who lived down the street with the “I heart Lazio” Sticker on their car, the guy at Hotel Illawarra who always wore his Red Star Belgrade shirt or the constant flow of people having a kick around in McCabe Park, you get the sense that football is close to more than a few hearts down there.
I even witnessed about 50 people gather for Sydney FC’s pip of Melbourne Victory for the 09/10 title at the Steelers Club (Yes that’s right a Rugby League club) And another 20 or so at Dicey Riley’s for the Grand Final win, a fair few pints of cider were sunk that night.
Both the Fraternity Club (Italian) and the German Club are constantly packed for World Cup and Euro Championship matches. Bars and clubs go nuts for it!
Even The notorious Glass House Tavern started handing out Socceroos flags when Australia scored against Ghana, when Holman slotted in that goal on the rebound I grabbed a flag, downed my Smirnoff black and then danced embarrassingly to Katy Perry’s California girls, what a night.
Let’s move on to Canberra, granted I’ve spent less time there, but I’ve witnessed none of the same things, my football mad best friend has turned his focus to Basketball since moving there and I’ve had to ask for A-League matches to be shown on the screens at the big clubs on more than one occasion and they usually relegated me and my entourage to the small screen in the corner.
The social makeup of Canberra is much different to Wollongong’s as well, a great deal of Canberra’s residents are upper middle class, privately educated children of higher level public servants meaning plenty of support for Canberra’s Rugby Union team.
I’m not saying that no one from a public school has ever watched or played Union, just that private schools are their bread and butter and the area’s relatively small lower class contingent already has the Canberra Raiders representing them (Call me classist if you want but without Queanbeyan the Raiders wouldn’t exist)
My point is that with these two teams, a great deal of the population are already represented in Canberra, can football fit in?
Sure Wollongong has the Dragons for half the season but that’s in winter, there’s plenty of room for a top level football team in The Gong.
With the right attitude in administration and a believable banner to rally under, I can picture an A-League team in Wollongong taking off in a manner very similar to the Western Sydney Wanderers, capturing the hearts and minds of the Regional, State and National media.
Can anyone honestly say the same for Canberra?