Sydney derby has the potential to be one of Asia’s best

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    Born in the east, living in the west, what team's a man to support? (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

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    With all due respect to the wonderful folks of Melbourne, but surely the Sydney derby possesses the requisite ingredients to become the most ferociously contested fixture in the A-League.

    Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC will go head to head at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday night in a clash which bears all the hallmarks of the fierce intracity derbies we know and love around the world.

    On the pitch, the Wanderers are undoubtedly keen to stay in touch with league leaders Brisbane, while Sydney FC are desperate for a win and the chance to divert attention from their abysmal away record.

    Off it, many Sky Blues fans harbour a genuine resentment towards Wanderers supporters for either jumping ship or failing to support entirely a club which was established to represent the whole city.

    Meanwhile, Wanderers fans – or at least the law-abiding majority of them – should feel aggrieved that a suspended sentence which threatens to dock competition points hangs over the team, thanks to the criminal actions of a bone-headed few.

    There’s now little stopping a Sydney FC fan from donning a Wanderers jersey and wreaking havoc down Church Street in a bid to have Western Sydney stripped of competition points, and how Football Federation Australia plans to accommodate that sort of scenario is anyone’s guess.

    At any rate, there’s a growing animosity between the two clubs and unlike in Melbourne, the supposed East-West divide between the two supporter bases adds an extra dimension to an already heated affair.

    It reminds me of the time I attended the last ever Cologne derby in the Bundesliga’s second division, when cellar dwellers Fortuna thumped table-topping rivals 1.FC Köln 4-1, seemingly for no other reason than that they despised their bigger brother’s existence.

    There was a crowd of 40,000 in attendance that afternoon, and I have no doubt that almost single every spectator was attracted by the lure of the kind of atmosphere only generated on derby day.

    There’s something almost comical about intracity derbies, as though the inhabitants of certain cities have nothing better to do than play out their petty squabbles within the gladiatorial confines of a football pitch.

    Some cities such as Barcelona boast two clubs so diametrically opposed, it’s a wonder the city can even function adequately, while others like Liverpool support two clubs with perhaps more in common than its respective fan-bases care to admit.

    And while some of the world’s fiercest derbies aren’t strictly intracity affairs – the M1 derby between Brisbane Roar and Gold Coast United was as keenly contested as any – the A-League’s most recent such addition adds a spark in a city renowned for the fickleness of its fans.

    Some of those supporters have a right to be fickle, mind you, and indeed my own attempts to buy a few tickets for Saturday night’s showdown ended in farce.

    A litany of errors in Ticketek’s log-in system left me and hundreds of like-minded fans frustrated in our attempts to buy tickets to the game.

    The problem was laughably compounded by the mass email I received shortly thereafter, apologising for the issue and ending with the line “(w)e hope to see you on terraces”.

    Well, no – since that would require me to be in possession of a ticket!

    It’s a small price to pay for the growing popularity of one of the A-League’s most anticipated encounters, though one would hope that FFA does not use the ticketing fiasco as an excuse to move the derby to ANZ Stadium in the future.

    Part of football’s charm is supporting your team home and away, and much of that is lost when marquee fixtures are played on what are essentially neutral grounds.

    Here’s hoping that the lucky fans inside Parramatta Stadium cherish the experience then, and generate a vociferous atmosphere at what is fast becoming one of Asia’s most anticipated derbies.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (130)

    • January 10th 2014 @ 6:41am
      Stevo said | January 10th 2014 @ 6:41am | ! Report

      LOL. Who in Asia gives a rats about anything going on in the HAL? The original and best intra city HAL derby belongs to Melbourne. The other one is a Johnny-come-lately faux derby. Stay safe from the flares and masked bandits people 🙂

      • January 10th 2014 @ 6:48am
        ciudadmarron said | January 10th 2014 @ 6:48am | ! Report

        Faux derby :lol; johnny come lately 😆 nice effort stevo. What drives the Melbourne derby again? Victory fans hate shecksy football isn’t it? Or is it who gets to lay claim to the latest hipster bar? Or which colour is better? Or which team name is more contrived? Or who gets to sit on the north terrace?

        • January 10th 2014 @ 7:53am
          Franko said | January 10th 2014 @ 7:53am | ! Report

          “Or which team name is more contrived?”

          Brilliant 🙂

        • January 10th 2014 @ 8:05am
          Kasey said | January 10th 2014 @ 8:05am | ! Report

          Its like comparing a proper dust up with A Rinehart Family Christmas lunch where the bastard half-brothers Melbourne Red and Melbourne Blue quarrel over who gets the wishbone.

          The Sydney Derby has a spice the Melbourne one doesn’t based on the historical East/West divide in the Harbour city….Perhaps if Melbourne Red weren’t such a pathetic entity? Food for thought for the Victory fans who want Heart to die ASAP? “How’d ya like them apples”~ Good Will Hunting

      • January 10th 2014 @ 7:21am
        Marchisio said | January 10th 2014 @ 7:21am | ! Report

        Sorry Stevo, as a fellow Melbournian, I’d love to rush to your aid, but Sydney’s derby is the real deal. Its Inter Vs Milan (equals), whereas Melbourne’s is Juve Vs Torino (so many more Juve fans than Torino fans).

        • January 10th 2014 @ 7:26am
          ciudadmarron said | January 10th 2014 @ 7:26am | ! Report

          More importantly there are long established points of difference. Yes l

        • January 10th 2014 @ 7:33am
          ciudadmarron said | January 10th 2014 @ 7:33am | ! Report

          More importantly there are long established points of difference. Yes long established as the cultural and geographic divides existed long before the football clubs. Oh yes I know sydney FC claim to represent all of sydney. Yes I know (although I’ve never seen the evidence as nobody is willing to show it) that a large bulk of their fans come from kogarah/rockdale – these suburbs are most definitively on the eastern side if the city btw. But the majority of wanderers fans never found sydney FC represented them, despite the jibes of turncoat (note how sydney FC memberships went up when wsw was firmed).

        • January 10th 2014 @ 8:32am
          Kasey said | January 10th 2014 @ 8:32am | ! Report

          I understand you were comparing fanbase sizes, but I’m pretty sure Torino fans would be offended by being compared to Heart.

          Torino were Italian Champions and home to Il Grande Torino (One of the Greatest and most important teams in Italian football history.)

          If you haven’t heard of them and you call yourself a football fan, you should educate yourself:

          • January 10th 2014 @ 10:21am
            Biala Gwiazda said | January 10th 2014 @ 10:21am | ! Report

            I agree – unfair on Torino, as they’re not as small compared to Juve as Heart are to Victory.

            Victory vs Heart is more akin to:
            – Legia Warsaw vs Polonia Warsaw
            – Hertha Berlin vs Union Berlin
            – Feyenoord vs Sparta
            – Forest vs Notts County
            – Barca vs Espanyol

          • January 10th 2014 @ 11:41am
            Marchisio said | January 10th 2014 @ 11:41am | ! Report

            Torino are trading on Grande Torino, a generation ago. I’m well aware of their history. I grew up in Italy. I was comparing the difference in number of fans attending matches, and the comparison in support.
            In Torino, Juve are everywhere, and are heavily supported. Torino have many fewer supporters, but their fans claim they are somehow for real, and true football fans. I was in Torino a couple of months ago, I saw it myself.
            Torino these days also play some pretty dreary football. Just like the Heart. They are the little brother club, just the Heart.
            Where they differ is, they were formed by members of Juve’s board, and they cannabilised other successful teams in Piedemonte to be formed. The joke is all of their fans used to support Juve, just like the Heart.

            • January 10th 2014 @ 12:05pm
              clayts said | January 10th 2014 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

              Do they have a pretty decent record against ‘big brother’, like the Heart?

              • January 10th 2014 @ 12:18pm
                Marchisio said | January 10th 2014 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

                Not that I recall in my life time, but what is same is their derby games are their Champions League finals, just like how the Heart treat winning the derby like they’ve won the A-League.

              • January 10th 2014 @ 1:02pm
                Stevo said | January 10th 2014 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

                @ Marchisio

                “Heart treat winning the derby like they’ve won the A-League.” No way Jose. Beating Victree is just one step in the progression towards winning silverware. But gotta say that JA has certainly gotten us into a fine mess over the last two seasons.

              • January 10th 2014 @ 1:03pm
                Marchisio said | January 10th 2014 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

                There’s always next season Stevo, let’s hope its a better one for your lot, for sake of the whole A-League.

      • January 10th 2014 @ 9:31am
        JAJI said | January 10th 2014 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        I dont know of anyone in Australia giving a rats about the goings on in any derby in Asia either Stevo. Tit for Tat

        • January 10th 2014 @ 12:58pm
          Stevo said | January 10th 2014 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

          At least then the feeling is mutual 🙂

    • January 10th 2014 @ 7:08am
      The artist formally known as Dave said | January 10th 2014 @ 7:08am | ! Report

      I’ll get in early before the argument about moving the derby to ANZ starts again, and again register my strong ‘NO’ vote, even though I too missed out on tickets to this one. I feel I’m probably on the losing side of the battle on that topic though.

      Given the sides are quite close on the table (6 pointer) and the possible 3 point reduction for WSW, can we call this one a ‘9 pointer’?

      • January 10th 2014 @ 8:47am
        c said | January 10th 2014 @ 8:47am | ! Report

        how many times are you prepared to miss out on tickets before you decide it is time to move to a larger ground?

        • January 10th 2014 @ 9:15am
          The artist formally known as Dave said | January 10th 2014 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          I’m not really sure. I think I’d still be happy even if I missed out every time if I was missing out because they sold out in minutes. I’ll always be a member at Sydney and will therefore always be guaranteed at least one derby game a season.

          I’m already on record from the last time we had this debate saying that if they move it to ANZ I’d consider not attending even though I could no doubt just purchase a ticket at the gate. I hate the place. It has been an absolutely crap atmosphere at every event I’ve ever attended there, including origin and Soceroos games (granted I wasn’t there for the Aloisi penalty game). I’m of the opinion it would actually help destroy the mystique (as Kasey so nicely puts it) of the derby rather than enhance it. You’d get all these casual observers turning up adding nothing but silence to the atmosphere. They’d walk away thinking ‘meh, not all its cracked up to be’.

          Don’t forget the first derby this year only sold out on the Wednesday or Thursday before the game I think it was. Considering 18 thousand or so tickets were already accounted for prior to going on sale (SFC members and SCG trust members), the demand was high, but not yet ridiculous. If you’re interested, its really not that difficult to get a ticket to the Moore Park games at this point in time. Granted Parramatta is nearly impossible unless you’re a member already.

          Not to mention of course the actual viewing of the game is sooooo much better at the SFS and Parra than sitting miles away at ANZ. Unless you have the best tickets in the house at ANZ the players look like ants.

          I’d maybe be open to finals derbies going there, and in the future when both SFS and Parra sell out almost instantly should be the time to look at moving it. NOT YET though!

          • January 10th 2014 @ 10:56am
            Kasey said | January 10th 2014 @ 10:56am | ! Report

            I’d maybe be open to finals derbies going there,

            Given that the FFA organise and pocket the profit from the Finals Series, Id say should the opportunity for a Finals Sydney Derby eventuate, very short odds on it being scheduled for ANZ(assuming it is available of course!)

            • January 10th 2014 @ 11:01am
              The artist formally known as Dave said | January 10th 2014 @ 11:01am | ! Report

              Yeah no doubt you are right Kasey. And its the reason I said in my first comment I feel I’m probably on the losing side of the debate. The argument about profits will always be a pretty powerful one to the people who make the decisions.

              • January 10th 2014 @ 11:07am
                Kasey said | January 10th 2014 @ 11:07am | ! Report

                Yes, the FFA are not obliged to honour the commitment made by the WSW hierarchy to their fans about staying put at Parra for 99% of circumstances.

                Neither would the new owners I imagine, but they would be silly to ‘mess’ with a working formula surely?

              • January 10th 2014 @ 11:14am
                The artist formally known as Dave said | January 10th 2014 @ 11:14am | ! Report

                I’d actually be interested to know how the WSW fan base feels about it in general. Obviously there are a few on here (AZ RBB, Striker) who want to move it. Do you guys feel like you reflect the general consensus amongst WSW fans?

              • January 10th 2014 @ 11:31am
                AZ_RBB said | January 10th 2014 @ 11:31am | ! Report

                90% of the 16 000 season ticket holders are against any move. 99% of people who missed out on tickets are completely for it. I’m constantly trying to convince people that a 50-60k crowd at a derby will be something very special. It’s well worth a try.

                The greedy thing to do would be to move all 3 derbies to ANZ. The (arguably) noble thing to do is to keep it as it is. So I think 1 derby a year at a bigger stadium is a very good compromise. The hype leading up to the event will be even bigger because instead of 19k excited people, you’ll have easily over 50k eager people talking to everyone they know about the game.

                A semi final could pack the joint, or get pretty close. What a sight that would be for the A-League.

              • January 10th 2014 @ 12:02pm
                The artist formally known as Dave said | January 10th 2014 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

                Haha, not surprising I guess!

                “The hype leading up to the event will be even bigger because instead of 19k excited people, you’ll have easily over 50k eager people talking to everyone they know about the game.”

                That’s the first argument I’ve heard that really makes an impression on me on this issue. For me its all about protecting that mystique/hype/something-special about the derby. Right now it still seems to me the best strategy is restricting supply to increase demand.

                I wonder what impact it would have on WSW membership sales if everyone knew they could get derby tickets no worries. Perhaps not much impact given they are still selling out every(?) other game.

              • January 10th 2014 @ 12:59pm
                leon said | January 10th 2014 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

                AZ – no to ANZ. You’d be hard pressed to find 10 people at Parramatta who favour a move.

              • Roar Guru

                January 12th 2014 @ 8:28pm
                apaway said | January 12th 2014 @ 8:28pm | ! Report

                How about this for a compromise? Whichever team hosts two home games in the season (this season it is FC) moves one of those games to the Olympic Stadium. I know Sydney FC were considering moving the March 8th game.

        • Roar Guru

          January 12th 2014 @ 8:25pm
          apaway said | January 12th 2014 @ 8:25pm | ! Report

          There is method to this non-madness. The atmosphere at Parramatta Stadium last night was fantastic. To those who missed out on a ticket; time to petition the State Government for a capacity upgrade to a ground that was built before the Sydney Football Stadium and now has at least one tenant who could put 30,000 in there every second summer weekend (and if the Eels awake from their slumber they are capable of similar support)

    • January 10th 2014 @ 7:21am
      Bondy said | January 10th 2014 @ 7:21am | ! Report

      Should be a good game with Sydney FC looking more able to score goals nowadays a 2-2 draw or a SFC win. I think it is important that the bigger or biggest games of domestic football in the A League our now Sydney derbies my observation so far is that they strip Melbournes A League derbies bare, more everything to a Sydney derby over a Melbourne derby it was noticeable last year and this one as well, the title of Melbourne being the home of sport in Australia is not the case with the A League and A League derbies it might be for other sports ..

    • January 10th 2014 @ 7:26am
      Gurudoright said | January 10th 2014 @ 7:26am | ! Report

      Ah yes….. The cool Melbourne derby where big brother beats up a weak little brother or the Sydney derby where the teams are a lot more even and so far have been higher up the ladder. In Sydney there is a proper divide between the clubs and their supporters. As I come from Western Sydney, once they entered the comp I felt I would be betraying my roots, friends and local area if I didn’t jump ship (I was never a hard core fan, just someone who went to a couple of FC’s game). The Sydney derby is about class and where you are from, the Melbourne derby is about joining the bandwagon or the underdogs

      • January 10th 2014 @ 8:24am
        clayts said | January 10th 2014 @ 8:24am | ! Report

        Ey? Until this year the Heart had won more derbies than Victory..

      • January 10th 2014 @ 10:30am
        Biala Gwiazda said | January 10th 2014 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        I’ve said it before, but the ‘class divide’ argument is manufactured and forced.

        The wealthy and bourgoise of Sydney follow Rugby Union or, more recently, the Swans.

        SFC fans come from all over the city, and many of them (if not all) follow the club for the love of football, not because of its ‘Eastern Suburbs’ location.

        As an aside I too am from western Sydney and have continued to follow SFC from day one. However, if WSW means more people in the western suburbs stop being Eurosnobs or become football fans, then it can only be a good thing.

        • January 10th 2014 @ 11:23am
          ciudadmarron said | January 10th 2014 @ 11:23am | ! Report

          It’s not just about money or location though, its cultural differences… ask people from the inner west or thevrest if the inner ring and up and diwn the ciadt what they think if western sydney and there is cultural cringe. One of the cultural differences clearly identifiable is the way the active support goes right round the stadium. It’s hard to put your finger on, but it doesn’t happen at sydney FC games where the crowd is much more passive. I might well be wrong but I put it down to middle class aspiration, and listening to train conversations on the way home from derbies tend to confirm this.

          At any rate, from what I see sydney FC fans tend to play up the bogan/ethnic stereotypes. Whatever the cause, the derby draws interest and makes the game stronger.

        • January 10th 2014 @ 1:08pm
          leon said | January 10th 2014 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

          One needs to know SFC history to understand the implications of the class divide.

          I.e. Frank Lowy involvement in SFC/Hakoah connection/repudiation of earlier commitment for SFC to be based in the West/the ludicrous ‘bling fc’ culture as alienating Western Sydney/the FFA’s one team policy and the dismissal of ethnic football.

          Additional point; the attitude of SFC supporters – I have been called a thug, leb (not an insult one must say even if it isn’t true), criminal, and bogan as a regular occurrence.

          Don’t tell me there isn’t a clear class dimension to the derby.

          • Columnist

            January 10th 2014 @ 2:27pm
            Mike Tuckerman said | January 10th 2014 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

            Chin up leon, someone called me a “yuppie” on here the other day. I scoffed into my Chardonnay at the thought!

            • January 10th 2014 @ 2:47pm
              leon said | January 10th 2014 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

              I tend to find that the people who use these terms invariably describe themselves.

              e.g. People inclined to use ‘bourgeois’ are undoubtedly middle-class.

          • January 10th 2014 @ 2:58pm
            Titus said | January 10th 2014 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

            Don’t look now leon but there is a massive chip on your shoulder.

          • January 10th 2014 @ 3:57pm
            Rangaraider said | January 10th 2014 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

            More recently “Drive bys” gets bandied about… There is a clear divide on a number of levels

          • January 10th 2014 @ 4:55pm
            SN2204 said | January 10th 2014 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

            How about you make and effort to educate yourself about WSWs board members,kit sponsors,financial backers and what connection they have to a certain NSW state league div2(exNSL)club instead of making statements about SFC.

            • January 10th 2014 @ 7:54pm
              leon said | January 10th 2014 @ 7:54pm | ! Report

              NRMA Western Sydney Wanderers (Sydney Croatia) is it?

              • January 11th 2014 @ 1:22am
                SN2204 said | January 11th 2014 @ 1:22am | ! Report

                No it’s not Sydney Croatia and Sydney Croatia is not in div 2 state league.Look at your board members,your future owner and research his family football history and who else he sponsors before you make selective claims about other clubs.

              • January 11th 2014 @ 1:37am
                SN2204 said | January 11th 2014 @ 1:37am | ! Report

                WSW fans talk about SFC’s Lowy & Hakoah links.A lot of your non westie exNSL fans who support a WSW claim they can’t support SFC due to the rivalry their NSL club had with Hakoah.
                That didn’t stop them supporting WSW whose GM John Tsatsimas stated in the SMH that Frank Lowey opening up the cheque book at WSW contributed to their success.
                You have Paul Lederer (lederers have done a lot for football in this country)and Elliot Russanow on your board who have strong links to Hakoah.Paul Lederer’s late uncle Andrew was football manager at Hakoah and his primo smallgoods company who he passed onto Paul is their main sponsor along with sponsoring WSW.By all reports they will own WSW soon.
                Meaning that SFC & WSW are step brothers except that they sold us to Traktovenko and then later started the club you support.
                So put down that stone and step outside the glasshouse !!

          • Roar Guru

            January 12th 2014 @ 8:32pm
            apaway said | January 12th 2014 @ 8:32pm | ! Report


            As a Sydney FC fan but huge admirer of the Wanderers, if you get that sort of crap from SFC supporters, then I apologise as one. The game is better than that sort of rubbish.

            • January 14th 2014 @ 6:54pm
              SN2204 said | January 14th 2014 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

              I agree with you that the game is bigger than that sort of crap and it should be kept out of the HAL.My post was a response to the first line in the second paragraph of Leon’s initial post.It should be kept out of the game but the persistent and ironic references to an old NSL club etc ..
              Combined with exNSL guys bringing their historical baggage into the HAL has led to the increase in some unsavoury incidences.
              I would be happy to discuss it via pm as a fellow SFC fan !!

    • Roar Guru

      January 10th 2014 @ 7:28am
      NUFCMVFC said | January 10th 2014 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      Certainly is great to see the interest, that will certainly outlast the desperately negative media

      , is better having a smaller stadium packed out rather than a neutral monolith stadium holding more people, this way the derby gets an exclspuwive and “hottest ticket int own” feel, while basically everyone genuinely committed can get to the SFS derbies

      At this time given the simple fact this derby is actually definable, I would say even as a Melburnian the Sydney derby has more substance, thought he AAMI park derbies are till great spectacles

      Mind you if SMFC were allowed in as they should be it would be another matter entirely

      As for Asia, it will be a while yet before anything A League related gets given any notice on the pan-Asian stage

      • January 10th 2014 @ 2:16pm
        Football United said | January 10th 2014 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

        This, South Melbourne vs MVFC in the FFA Cup will be huge. Two biggest clubs in our history, Old Soccer vs New Football etc. Plus they have more fans around than heart ever had.

      • January 10th 2014 @ 2:43pm
        bill boomer said | January 10th 2014 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

        Actually i see quite regular A league coverage on futbol mundial and football Asia. They’re both fifa productions but are widely viewed in Asia and just as i am informed about blue wings or frontale (by these programs)so would people there be about roar and wanderers. There is growing awareness of the A league internationally and so in Asia.

    • January 10th 2014 @ 7:53am
      Franko said | January 10th 2014 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      Great piece Mike, I agree pretty much 100%

      – This is now the best derby in the A-League
      – The game should always be played at home venues
      – The FFA sanctions have too many holes in them
      – Richard Garcia is running scared of Jerome Polenz

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