There’s a perfect storm brewing in the world of professional sport and the A-League has been one of the first competitions in Australia to feel the full effect.
The greatest love story in the A-League’s history is over.
No more will Melbourne Victory’s fans serenade Archie Thompson after the legendary forward played his last home match in 11 seasons for the club in Tuesday night’s Asian Champions League match.
When his number was called in the 67th minute, Thompson couldn’t believe it was over.
He first pulled his head into his shirt as he began the long walk back to the substitute’s bench.
Looking up, he saw a tribute banner and made a heart sign to the North Terrace, Victory’s biggest fan group.
His replacement, teenage forward George Howard, bowed and embraced his teammate as Thompson’s emotions got the better of him.
As the rousing chants and applause continued, Thompson took his seat, took it in, and sobbed.
It was over.
The 37-year-old has one outing in navy blue left; the crucial away leg with Jeonbuk no less.
But this – this feeling – was over.
After announcing the end to his Victory career last month, Thompson said he’d struggled to deal with the approaching moment.
“It’s been a long, long two or three weeks. The tear ducts are just about empty,” Thompson said.
“That cheer the supporters gave me is something I’ll live with the rest of my life.
“It’s been a pleasure. An absolute pleasure.”
Last month, Thompson was adamant he would continue his professional career despite Victory’s decision to cut him but on Tuesday night he wasn’t sure whether he would still do so.
“Call me at 7 in the morning when I can’t move and I might say ‘I’m going to hang the boots up’,” he said.
“Come later in the week when I’m feeling better it’s like ‘I’ll go another year’.
“The decision is down to me … you’re a long time retired.
“Maybe I might get to local football. Maybe I’ll go play six-a-side.
“Over 35s (or) Masters. Where I could actually have a beer before the game.”
Coach Kevin Muscat, who endured a similar goodbye five years ago, said Thompson’s effort right to the end brought him great credit.
“Speaking from experience, it’s not an easy week when you know it’s coming,” he said.
“He gave us some glimpses tonight of his old self … and it was amazing the way our members and fans paid tribute.”