Sydney, 2027: A piece of creative writing to celebrate football

Stuart Thomas Columnist

By Stuart Thomas, Stuart Thomas is a Roar Expert

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    It’s the twelfth of June 2027 and a majestic Qantas aircraft lands at Sydney’s international terminal from Belgrade, Serbia.

    A lean man works his way through customs and goes unnoticed by otherwise engrossed travellers as he collects his luggage and moves towards the endless conga line of taxis waiting at the kerb outside.

    He flicks through his iPhone 28 and fires off a text to the boys, just letting them know that he has arrived and how much he is looking forward to seeing them that evening.

    His family has stayed at home this time. Despite a genuine love for Australia, his wife stays behind to care for his children, avoiding too much distraction to their routines.

    The sights and smells of the city bring back lucid images and he instructs the taxi driver to ensure that she uses Moore Park Road on the way to his hotel room in the CBD.

    Peering to the right, the Sydney Cricket Ground, Fox Studios and the newly named stadium next door come into view.

    The huge signage attached to the new roof bears the name of a gambling company that means very little to the man, he will always remember it as Allianz Stadium. He chokes up a little and enjoys the minute or two sitting patiently in traffic, soaking up the emotions he feels, sitting outside his old stamping ground.

    Initially he had planned a sleep for the afternoon, the length of the flight in mind, yet the energy he feels in anticipation of seeing his friends again prevents it.

    At 5.30pm, he calls reception and requests a taxi, takes the elevator to the lobby and is met by a handsome man whose badge bears the name Ahmed.

    ‘Your taxi is here Mr Ninkovic,’ he says, with an obvious awareness to whom he is speaking.

    ‘Welcome back to Sydney and thank you for everything you did for Australian football.’

    He is humbled and thankful in his thick Serbian accent and moves to the cab with a skip in his step and a smile on his face.

    Milos Ninkovic celebrates

    (AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)

    At forty two years of age, the hairline is a little higher and the strength and tone in his legs not quite that of his prime. Yet Milos Ninkovic is unmistakeable.

    The restaurant is a place he knows well. A place where the squad had dined often throughout the glory years. Tasteful, French and private, it was just what a tight-knit group of players needed to bond, talk and forge friendships.

    Friendships that were fundamental to their success and ones that would be revisited on this night.

    The first player to arrive, Ninkovic approaches the private function room near the rear of the restaurant, pushes open the door and sees a lone figure seated at the head of the table.

    Now sixty-three, bald but still in good shape, Graham Arnold stand up, holds out both arms and the two men embrace.

    The chance of a young boy from Belgrade and an Australian man born on the north side of Sydney forming such a bond and connection is slim in any other context.

    However, the power of the world game and the subsequent symbolism is what makes football special and stands it apart from most endeavours. That romance was never more evident than in the few brief moments coach and player had together before the rest of the squad began arriving.

    Hugs and handshakes were the norm, as the room energised and after the final arrival, the group sat down to a night of fine food, drink and memories of a decade ago.

    It is the tenth anniversary of the Sky Blues 2017 A-League Championship. The day that ended the nearest thing to a perfect season that the A-League has ever seen.

    It was also the day that a committed and brave Melbourne Victory team almost rained on the parade, with chances to topple the applecart in extra-time.

    Only penalties could eventually separate the teams and with just the one loss for the season, many felt Sydney were the deserved winners.

    Victory supporters took no comfort in that line of thinking, knowing full well that they had come within inches of glory after James Troisi thumped a shot into the left post, only to see his effort ricochet back into the field of play.

    This, and many other stories and moments proved the basis of the narrative throughout the meal.

    A perfectly flambéed breast of chicken, a delicate truffle sauce and bottles of Grange Hermitage provided by the Club, lubricated the conversation and the room grew louder.

    The harmony in the team was still evident, the title had been won on the basis of club. Not just the players. Arnold had moulded the structures to emphasise the wider collective. In 2017, Sydney FC became a family.

    Wives, children, trainers and every layer of personnel became integral parts of the Club and the spirit was palpable.

    Predictably, players took friendly jibes at each other, calling on some of the less glorious moments of the season.

    David Carney copped a bit for the dubious goal early in the season against the Victory, current Socceroo Rhyan Grant faced a tirade directed at his rather aggressive tackle technique he adopted early in his career and even the coach was targeted after suggesting a few players take yellows in the later rounds to avoid suspension in the finals.

    Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold.

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    The international flavour of the group was part of its magic. Bobo and Dutchman Jordi Buijs had flown over for the occasion and seeing the Brazilian reconnect with Filip Holosko, his forward ally from their days in Turkey, was pure humanity and brotherhood.

    The heart and soul of the most miserly defence that season, had been Socceroo Alex Wilkinson.

    Having had no luck in previous Grand Finals in Australia, despite incredible achievements overseas, the win had meant more to him than most could know.

    Club legend and captain on the day, Alex Brosque, spoke after dessert. He reminded the players of their bond, how their belief never waned and organised a photo to commemorate the night.

    The room fell silent as Arnold rose. The man who masterminded every detail was still revered as a father figure by all of the boys who sat before him. He found it difficult to begin, but spoke of never forgetting.

    He said. ‘What we did was very special boys. Nobody, ever, can take that away from you. Every team that wins a title holds it forever.

    ‘To win it, the chemistry has to be right and for that one season it was as close to perfect as I have ever seen. What you need to remember, is that as good as we may be individually, without each other, we had nothing.’

    ‘You are the best team I have ever coached.’

    There weren’t many dry eyes and despite a feeling that the night was done, the players lingered til the wee hours.

    Nobody wanted to leave the restaurant in much the same way that no one wanted the leave the pitch on that glorious night.

    Of course, things must change and evolve and it was never precisely the same again. Never exactly like the night that Sydney FC won the 2016-17 A-League title.

    Stuart Thomas
    Stuart Thomas

    Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @stuartthomas72.

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    The Crowd Says (40)

    • May 10th 2017 @ 7:51am
      Brisvegas said | May 10th 2017 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      ” … with just the one loss for the season, many felt Sydney were the deserved winners.”

      What a bizarre thought! They deserved to win a game because they were the better team during the season?

      As for the rest … you missed out the part where God abdicated and handed over the running of the universe to Arnold, and when Vukovic was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and the day FIFA declared the match to be the greatest game of football ever played.

      • May 10th 2017 @ 8:34am
        punter said | May 10th 2017 @ 8:34am | ! Report

        It’s an opinion piece, what part can you not understand.

        I watched the BR v CCM GF back in Ange’s day & was sadden that the best team of the year was not going to be crowned champions, then when BR scored 2 goals & Henrique scored the winning penalty I jumped for joy. I have no love for Brisbane Roar, nor for Queenlanders.
        However, that year BR deserved to be champions.

        Yes no doubting MV took it to SFC just like CCM too it to BR all those years ago, but i too agree with Stuart that it would be a travesty if SFC did not win the GF. It would have put a lot of doubt on who are the real champions, but in the case on Sunday night as with the Ange’s BR team, the best team of the year won the GF.

        • May 10th 2017 @ 8:48am
          Nemesis said | May 10th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

          I think you and Stuart are missing the point.

          To say Sydney “deserved” to win the Grand Final is as ridiculous as suggesting Chelsea “deserves” to win the FA Cup when it plays Arsenal

          Or, Juventus “deserves” to win the Coppa Italia when it plays Lazio.

          Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga with ease. They were knocked out of the DFB Pokal by Dortmund in the Semi Finals. It’s laughable to suggest Bayern deserved to have won simply because they’re the best team in Germany.

          • May 10th 2017 @ 9:08am
            punter said | May 10th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

            I have no issues with this Nemesis, if everyone thinks like you & me.
            That the premiership is the title of the champions & the GF winner is the winner of the finals series.

            But you know this is not the case, SFC players did not get a medal for winning the premiership & many people in Australia (you & I excluded) thinks the GF winner is the champions.

            Your examples are clearly different competitions, whereas the GF is a continuation of the premiership & many in this country still call it the minor premiership.

            Everything is not as black & white as you like it.

            • May 10th 2017 @ 9:20am
              brisvegas said | May 10th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

              In my view, the league and the end of season cup are two separate competitions. Sydney, by far, were the best team throughout the season. That doesn’t give them any god-given right to win the end of season cup.

              So I agree with Nemesis, and I also think his examples are spot on.

            • May 10th 2017 @ 9:24am
              Nemesis said | May 10th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

              @Punter

              If not everyone thinks the Championship Trophy & Premiership Trophy are 2 different awards for 2 different types of competition that’s not my concern.

              I’m not going to dumb down my analysis to the level of the ignorant wider Aussie community.

              This ALeague Grand Final was a clear example that the match played was totally different to anything we saw during 135 H&A ALeague matches.

              The Grand Final was played over 120 minutes.
              It was won on a penalty shootout.

              This does not happen during any ALeague Home & Away Match.

              • May 10th 2017 @ 10:42am
                punter said | May 10th 2017 @ 10:42am | ! Report

                Fair enough Nemesis, maybe the FFA needs to hand out individual medals for winning the premiership as recognition of winning the premiership & FOOTBALL media & officials should stop calling it Minor premiership..

                As for yours & Brisvegas thinking your competition examples are correct, well I have news for you.

                The FA cup, Coppa Italia & the DFB Pokal are all straight out knockout comps like our FFA cup.

                The Finals series & the GF is based on where teams finished in the Home & away season.

                No comparison at all.

              • May 10th 2017 @ 10:51am
                Nemesis said | May 10th 2017 @ 10:51am | ! Report

                Huh?

                What Finals were you watching.

                I watched a Finals Series of 5 matches where all the matches were knock-out.

                Not even a replay, like FA Cup for early round draws; ALeague Finals are straight knock-out.

                The ALeague Table only serves to decide which 6 teams are invited to this special end-of-season tournament.

              • May 10th 2017 @ 11:06am
                punter said | May 10th 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

                You like an argument.

                Yes exactly, as you mentioned the Finals series is a knockout series based on the A-League table & only the top 6 is invited.

                The other countries cup format is NOT that, it is based as our FFA cup, where teams from many tiers of football are invited to compete.

                There is no comparison!!!!

    • Roar Rookie

      May 10th 2017 @ 8:45am
      Stevo said | May 10th 2017 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      Take your pills Stuart, you need help mate lolz 😉 Anyway, Ninks is a special import to the HAL like Broich. Will be remembered, possibly even a statue outside Allianz?

      • Columnist

        May 10th 2017 @ 9:28am
        Stuart Thomas said | May 10th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        Probably need a good lie down after such an epic weekend. I love a bit of Romance. I should write on the Victory’s reunion. Muscat will let fly.

        • May 10th 2017 @ 9:34am
          Nemesis said | May 10th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

          Love your work, Stuart.

          But, stick to Sydney FC cheer-leading. I don’t think any MVFC fan would appreciate any input on the team from a Sydney FC fan.

          PS: James Troisi’s shot thumped into the Right post, not the left. The football singposts for a team are referenced by how the team faces on kick-off. So, Michael Zullo is Sydney’s Left Back; not the Right Back.

          • May 10th 2017 @ 10:17am
            Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | May 10th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

            Knit picking!

            • May 10th 2017 @ 10:28am
              Nemesis said | May 10th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

              I’m sure Stuart teaches his students the importance of attention to detail, Caltex.

              If the Driving Instructor tells you to turn Left & you turn Right, you’ll be in a bit of bother.

              • Columnist

                May 10th 2017 @ 11:12am
                Stuart Thomas said | May 10th 2017 @ 11:12am | ! Report

                True Nemesis,

                Unfortunately, when I coach my teams and I tell an attacking player to run towards the left post, they will head the wrong way.

                I tried using the term near and far posts and that ended with players even more confused. Beginning players can’t grasp the correct terminology. The only left and right they seem to grasp is the one from their own perspective.

                Can you imagine how confused my students are with such loose definitions.

                Poor kids.

            • May 10th 2017 @ 5:38pm
              Buddy said | May 10th 2017 @ 5:38pm | ! Report

              well in that case it should be nit picking as it refers to that painful job of trying to pick the eggs of nits out of the hair….thank goodness my family has moved well and truly past that stage!

          • May 10th 2017 @ 10:31am
            Cool N Cold said | May 10th 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

            Just a discussion here, no offence

            James Troisi’s shot thumped into the Left post, not the Right.

            It is the left post that Troisi (and MV players) faced. As to the goalkeeper and Sydney FC players, that same post been hit is the right post.

            The same is that Micheal Zullo is Sydney’s right back.

            In soccer, it is the same as the traffic system. In Australia, left lane is for vehicles moving forward (up) while the right lane is for vehicles moving down.

            Direction is oriented by “facing forward”. Imagine you are in a car in Australia, your left hand is the side that the car should be kept. That is why it is called left-up-right-down-system.

            As for football, it is the same. So, some soccer commentators (in the radio era in 1950s) would say the the left hand side of the ATTACKING DIRECTION, the right hand side of the ATTACKING DIRECTION.

            Anyhow, you can say James Troisi’s ball struck the left post of MV’s goal frame.

            However, from James Troisi’s point of view, it is the left post in front of him.

            Still, I insist that Micheal Zullo is Sydney FC’s right back.

    • Roar Pro

      May 10th 2017 @ 9:26am
      Josh Barton said | May 10th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      You missed the part where Sydney signed Messi and went on to win 10 straight titles…..

      Well, it COULD happen.

    • May 10th 2017 @ 9:38am
      mattq said | May 10th 2017 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      I like your contributions Stuart. But please tell me one of your students wrote this. It couldn’t possibly be by a grown man.

      • Columnist

        May 10th 2017 @ 10:06am
        Stuart Thomas said | May 10th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        No Mattq, not a student effort. Just a little romance and fantasy. No offence taken.

      • May 10th 2017 @ 1:21pm
        Chris said | May 10th 2017 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

        Wow some people are so mean! I actually enjoyed it and whether you are Sydney FC or MVFC or Glory or whoever, the main thrust of the article for me was how football brings so many nationalities together and where they share this common bond.
        I hope you have thick skin Stuart. I don’t think there’d be anything to read on here if the authors listened to some of the feedback they get.

        • Columnist

          May 10th 2017 @ 6:31pm
          Stuart Thomas said | May 10th 2017 @ 6:31pm | ! Report

          Thanks Chris, a bit of fun, positivity and parochialism is good for the game sometimes. Not trying to tick anyone off. I was trying to make the point that team harmony and spirit are key and winning championships are things that live forever. Would have written the article about any team that achieved something special. It was an amazing year. Thanks for your level headed response.

        • Columnist

          May 10th 2017 @ 6:31pm
          Stuart Thomas said | May 10th 2017 @ 6:31pm | ! Report

          PS Skin getting thicker by the day.

          • Roar Guru

            May 10th 2017 @ 6:54pm
            Ben of Phnom Penh said | May 10th 2017 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

            ……….and that, good Sir, is one of the two key elements of a good satarist.

    • May 10th 2017 @ 10:10am
      Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | May 10th 2017 @ 10:10am | ! Report

      Stuart – I’m going to put this short story up there with “Ben-Hur” and “Gone with the Wind”.. My only hope is that Hollywood picks this story up and runs with it. I can see Australian actors reading this script of yours and wanting to be part of it. Russell Crow (Ninko), Cate Blanchett (female taxi driver), Geoffrey Rush (Arnie), Hugh Jackman (Brosquie), Eric Bana (Wilko), just to name a few for the cast. Yes Stuart, you have a real gift. Hollywood beckons, what in the hell are you doing here writing for the ROAR? (Glad your are tho; you make my day, just that bit more enjoyable in my retirement—have a good day Stuart).

      • Columnist

        May 10th 2017 @ 11:18am
        Stuart Thomas said | May 10th 2017 @ 11:18am | ! Report

        Gee whizz, I would like to see Russell Crowe try and slim down to Ninkovic’s playing weight. Jackman would be a good casting in the role of skipper. Bana as Wilkinson is hilarious.

        Jack Thompson could do a good Arnie. Shane Warne could have a crack at Matt Simon. George Clooney would make a great fist of Bobo, handsome devil that he is and the 16 year old kid with a high pitched voice from down the road could do an excellent Rhyan Grant.

      • Roar Pro

        May 10th 2017 @ 11:28am
        Josh Barton said | May 10th 2017 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        Mark Strong as Kevin Muscat. Seriously, look at them, its the same person.

    • May 10th 2017 @ 12:20pm
      Lionheart said | May 10th 2017 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

      I thought you’d gone mainstream with your last article Stuart, or at least taken a small step in that direction.
      But here you go again, writing as a fan not as a journalist. Sure I know you’re not a journalist, but you should aim for that journalistic balance given the quantity of articles you submit, lest you should just submit your articles to the SFC website.

      • Columnist

        May 10th 2017 @ 12:44pm
        Stuart Thomas said | May 10th 2017 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

        Must say I disagree with your analysis here. A-League Grand Final just held. Sydney produced what is probably the best season in A-League history and I am suppossed to write about someone else. Sure there has been a little Sydney bias lately, with good reason I would have thought.

        • May 10th 2017 @ 1:02pm
          Lionheart said | May 10th 2017 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

          lately?

          • May 10th 2017 @ 1:43pm
            punter said | May 10th 2017 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

            LH double winners deserve all the articles!!!!

            • May 10th 2017 @ 4:14pm
              Lionheart said | May 10th 2017 @ 4:14pm | ! Report

              good on you guys, enjoy it, that’s what being a fan is all about. But …

              • May 10th 2017 @ 4:32pm
                punter said | May 10th 2017 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

                LH, we ended all Buts when we won the GF. We are by a fair way the best team in the competition, this year, if there are a few more articles about SFC then other clubs, then I think we deserve it.

                This was a tongue in cheek look at SFC GF win & a makeup reunion in 10 years time, it was done with fun & jest, but some fans of other clubs took it far more serious then Stuart had hoped.

                I can’t write like Stuart, but I can tell you, I’m still on cloud nine about our season this year & if I could write, it would be about SFC.

              • May 10th 2017 @ 5:06pm
                Lionheart said | May 10th 2017 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

                good on you punter, well done.
                I just say it’s not a fans forum and Stuart may be better to submit his articles to the SFC website. My opinion, and I know he’ll keep writing them, good on him, but they’re not for me I’m afraid.

              • May 10th 2017 @ 5:16pm
                punter said | May 10th 2017 @ 5:16pm | ! Report

                Give you a hint LH, don’t read them.

                There as been a few discussions on Brisbane Roar on here lately, I don’t complain, if it doesn’t interest me & normally it doesn’t, I don’t get involved, because I know there are quite a few passionate BR fans on here.

              • Columnist

                May 10th 2017 @ 6:35pm
                Stuart Thomas said | May 10th 2017 @ 6:35pm | ! Report

                More about the international language of football and the eternal memories around winning championships. When a team does something special, it is worth noting. I hope Lionheart still reads my stuff Punter, I respect everyone who loves our game and engages with the Roar. It is my favourite place. Good people and strong opinions aren’t easy to find these days.

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