Seeing Arsenal in Sydney was a childhood dream come true

Michael Thompson Roar Rookie

By Michael Thompson, Michael Thompson is a Roar Rookie New author!

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81 Have your say

    As a nine-year-old in 2003, watching Arsenal play in Australia was a pipe dream.

    But as football grew in Australia, so did the amount of English Premier League clubs heading Down Under to play in exhibition matches.

    Liverpool played Melbourne Victory at a packed MCG, while 95,000 fans sang ‘You’ll never walk alone’.

    Manchester United played the A-League All Stars in Sydney, and then the next year Juventus took on on an Alessandro Del Piero-led All Stars.

    I’d just walked out of the AC/DC concert at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne on a warm December night in 2016, when I flicked on Facebook and saw that Arsenal would be heading to Australia in July 2017.

    After all the sleepless nights as a teenager and into early adulthood watching my beloved Gunners, it was a necessity to jet up to Sydney to see them play live.

    Fast-forward to Thursday night, July 13, 2017. Arsenal played Sydney FC in front of over 80,000 people, including myself, decked out in my Arsenal gear.

    As the sides emerged from the tunnel, you could feel the atmosphere around the stadium intensify.

    Arsenal went into the first 45 minutes with a younger line-up, names not many people would’ve heard of like Joe Willock, Cohen Bramall, Reiss Nelson and Kristian Bielik, alongside the experienced heads of Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott and Petr Cech.

    It was the Gunners’ captain who struck first, with a fantastic overhead kick inside six yards to open the scoring.

    Ozil received a rousing reception every time he took a corner kick, and Arsenal were up 1-0 at the end of the first 45.

    The second half saw Arsene Wenger make ten changes, as most of the team that played the first 65 minutes was subbed out, bringing on the more experienced heads like Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and new recruit French striker Alexander Lacazette blazing around ANZ wearing the number 9 jersey.

    Fifteen minutes on pitch, and the Frenchman scored his first in Arsenal colours, courtesy of a great pass assist from Alex Iwobi – hopefully the first of many for the new recruit.

    Only two goals were scored, but what a game it was. The Gunners can now look forward to spending some time with their fans before they take on the Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday night, again at ANZ Stadium.

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    The Crowd Says (81)

    • Roar Rookie

      July 14th 2017 @ 6:00am
      Stevo said | July 14th 2017 @ 6:00am | ! Report

      It was an entertaining game that’s for sure and both sides played their part. Just loved the effortless control of Ozil & Co, they just moved across the pitch with authority – surely a lesson for any youngsters watching. As for getting excited about a touring club, can’t say I have an affinity with any overseas team and I’ve watched EPL, etc, etc for a lot longer than your good self. The only football I need to support is Australian football. Anyway, each to their own and cheers for the article.

    • July 14th 2017 @ 6:48am
      James said | July 14th 2017 @ 6:48am | ! Report

      Dull as dishwater. There is a reason why Sydney FC fans largely ignore these euorosnob fests.
      Give me Sydney FC vs wanderers anyday.
      And why are all these Sydney people not supporting Sydney teams first and foremost? Having lived in UK and been to plastic EPL matches… philosophy is…spend time supporting your local team.

      • July 14th 2017 @ 7:03am
        Footoverhand said | July 14th 2017 @ 7:03am | ! Report


      • July 14th 2017 @ 7:07am
        Waz said | July 14th 2017 @ 7:07am | ! Report

        The trick is to attract these Euro supporters to the A League, and that doesnt start with insulting them and telling them who they should support. I was impressed with SFC yesterday, not for the performance – but their marketing department offered everyone who went to last nights game a free ticket to their first home game. That’s a great move.

        • July 14th 2017 @ 7:16am
          James said | July 14th 2017 @ 7:16am | ! Report

          Asking them why they don’t support the team of their local city first and foremost is hardly an insult.

          • July 14th 2017 @ 7:25am
            northerner said | July 14th 2017 @ 7:25am | ! Report

            If he had to jet to Sydney for the game, I doubt SFC is his local team.

          • July 14th 2017 @ 7:38am
            Waz said | July 14th 2017 @ 7:38am | ! Report

            Maybe not but calling them “eurosnobs” is insulting, as is telling them which club they should support.

            Their local city (where they live) may not have the same pull as their home city (where they were born) which may not be Sydney. And there are many different reasons why people to choose to follow a team apart from proximity, some may be following because it’s the team of their father and it provides an emotional connection or bond; that’s not an easy one to break.

            So rather than insult or question which team they support it is better to do as sydney have done and try and attract them to our teams. Let them support The Gunners but come and support SFC as well.

            I’m a dedicated Roar fan but from my travels I’ve got an affection for Mönchengladbach, Doncaster Rovers, Forest, Seattle Sounders and Kitchee in Hong Kong. It doesn’t hurt to let people follow who they want to, it’s an emotional decision not a logical one based on postcode.

            We are better off attracting football supporters even if they follow European teams than alienating them by questioning their emotional choices.

            • July 14th 2017 @ 8:14am
              James said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report

              I agree with your ideas and desire to attract these fans. .However my comments relate not to any particular individual but rather to the continued, obvious, conscious neglect of a large swathe of football fans that shun the a-league. It’s clear as day that there were thousands of Sydneysiders in arsenal jerseys last night that have absolutely no intention of supporting the team of their own city. Yes we have all tried to convert them. Some will but most don’t. It works both ways too…it’s not just us and our clubs trying to attract fans of EPL clubs but it’s the internal philosophy of the individual. It’s a genuine wider question…why do so many support a team on the other side of the world yet have a local club up the road that they have never seen? I’m not talking about those people that support multiple clubs…many A-league fans would do that. But I very much doubt that these games do that much to assist in the conversion we all want. I’m sorry but I stand by the term euorosnob for the majority of attendees.

              • July 14th 2017 @ 8:55am
                RBBAnonymous said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

                The trick is trying not to convert them. Just do your thing A-league, don’t try and please anyone. Be your best self.

              • July 14th 2017 @ 9:04am
                Waz said | July 14th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

                Agree with your sentiments but we must do stuff to attract them not try and scare them off their current clubs.

                SFC getting access to that database of attendees last night is a good start. When LFC came to Brisbane Roar were denied access to the ticket database … but if LFC have 600,000 members/fans in Australia why wouldn’t the HAL try some co-marketing with them?

                There’s more than can be done – the ffa is in charge of marketing and owns most of the databases relating to these type of fans (the “football family” database which the ffa also don’t share with the clubs bizarrely)

              • July 14th 2017 @ 9:26am
                Footoverhand said | July 14th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

                Cheap tickets for Sydney FC members, at least active could have helped. If Sydney FC chants were heard and created a club atmosphere could have a two pronged effect.
                1 creates atmosphere which a lot of people enjoy, show’s people are proud to support the team
                2 Inspiration for Sydney and maybe put on a better display

              • July 14th 2017 @ 10:00am
                Lionheart said | July 14th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

                Footoverhand, The EPL club, as far as I’m aware, is the home team for these pre-season friendlies and control ticket sales and allocation. Can’t say about this game per se, but other like games tickets for away fans (being the A League team) have been fairly limited making it difficult for active supporters to get themselves organised. It’s all about making money for the main attraction, which ain’t the A League side.

              • July 14th 2017 @ 12:47pm
                Footoverhand said | July 14th 2017 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

                Cheers, so do A League clubs still have to pay the FFA $200k?

              • July 14th 2017 @ 1:06pm
                Nemesis said | July 14th 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

                “Cheers, so do A League clubs still have to pay the FFA $200k?”

                Why would ALeague clubs have to pay FFA?

                From what I’ve read, all football matches require the Member Association (FFA) approval and the FFA charges the promoter $250,000 to operate each exhibition match in Australia.

        • July 14th 2017 @ 4:23pm
          LuckyEddie said | July 14th 2017 @ 4:23pm | ! Report

          The event goers have had 11 years to support the A-League, how long do they need. Roar had 50k for Liverpool and the next week Roar were back to the usual 13k. These people are event goers and have little interest in week to week football. FFA is wasting their time if they think games like this will increase HAL crowds. FFA should go all out to increase the standard of HAL nad the first step has to be using our big number to play hard politics at every State and Federal election. It worked for the Cowboys they knew it was a tight election and they played both parties and got a $200m stadium. Interestingly Roar has bigger ave crowds than the Cowboys but good on the cowboys for playing hard politics. The FFA sits back and gets a few crumbs thrown at them. WE need new football stadiums.

      • July 14th 2017 @ 7:40am
        League table speaks said | July 14th 2017 @ 7:40am | ! Report

        My local team is in the NPL with zero competitive path to the top flight.

        • July 14th 2017 @ 8:02am
          Waz said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:02am | ! Report

          That’s the other fracture we have to fix as well

          • July 14th 2017 @ 8:31am
            League table speaks said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

            Oh where for art thou #timeline #lastresort #decadesaway #uniquestrayansportingenvironment 😉

            • July 14th 2017 @ 9:05am
              Waz said | July 14th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report


    • July 14th 2017 @ 7:02am
      Footoverhand said | July 14th 2017 @ 7:02am | ! Report

      I thought Sydney were horrible, so negative and just kicking the ball long, the second half was a bit better, some of the subs tried to go forward at least.
      I much more enjoyed watching our U15’s afterwards in Thailand, showed more technique than all of Sydney displayed and ended Aus 7 – 3 Indonesia, nice to watch a dominant win.

      • July 14th 2017 @ 9:11am
        Lionheart said | July 14th 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

        missed that U15 game – what channel was that on?
        never mind about SFC, that’s what they do.

        • July 14th 2017 @ 9:34am
          Footoverhand said | July 14th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

          You can catch it here, 4 goals in 10 minutes!
          Then our boys settled and asserted themselves, I think we hit the upright or crossbar 4-5 times, it could have been even more.
          But the boys really showed some good close ball control skills, which was great to see.

          • July 14th 2017 @ 10:15am
            Lionheart said | July 14th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

            thanks for that – defence a bit lacking but enjoyed watching that. I once could speak Bahasa but those commentators were so excited, spoke so quick that I had no chance of keeping up with them.

    • July 14th 2017 @ 8:07am
      Caltex Ten & SBS support Australian Football said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      As a SFC supporter I was disappointed Arnold field a second string XI with the team comprising of so many youth players and the Johnny Warren medal winner sitting on the bench. Yes I expected some of our youth team to get a run, but not to dominate the on field numbers as it was. Arnold, you let the SFC supporters down, by putting out a second string SFC team. You really need to take these game a bit more seriously, so we can truly judge the true quality of our team up against a world class team like Arsenal.

      • Roar Pro

        July 14th 2017 @ 9:35am
        Josh Barton said | July 14th 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        On the other hand it was good to see a few of these kids shine, considering how limited their chances were through the season. The kids seemed to put in a lot more effort than a few of the first teamers. Zuvela and Kuleski probably did enough to warrant some significant game time for next season.

        • July 14th 2017 @ 1:53pm
          Lionheart said | July 14th 2017 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

          I’m sure I heard the commentator (Basheer was it?) say that Sydney FC was the only A League club in Australia that field their youth team in the NPL. Of course both MV and BR field their youth teams in the NPL, maybe also other clubs that I’m not aware of, so what was he on about? especially as Craig Moore was his co-commentator.

          • July 14th 2017 @ 2:01pm
            Nemesis said | July 14th 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

            I don’t pay attention to what Basheer says about football.

            I know MV & City both have youth teams in NPL.
            The u20 MV & City kids play in the senior NPL competition.
            I think it’s u16 MV & City kids play in the u20 NPL comp.

            MV were promoted to NPL1 in their 1st season, but found the top division too hard & they got relegated the following season so both City & Victory in NPL2.

    • July 14th 2017 @ 8:20am
      Al said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      I agree Caltex ten………ball.

      I am also a Syd fan and was frustrated by the way they played and the team Arnie put up.

      If we are saying that this is a way for the non Aleague followers to glimpse the team, well it a fail. He can test the kids in other games.

      We could not put 2 passes together.

      • July 14th 2017 @ 8:32am
        Fadida said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:32am | ! Report

        I think Arnie new tht had he played his best team and they were soundly beaten there’d be a lot of criticism of his team and the league.

        Now he has the excuse of “we didn’t have our best team out there”.

        But yes, it does nothing to attract new fans to the league

        • July 14th 2017 @ 9:08am
          Waz said | July 14th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

          Not sure about that, Roar v LFC was a strong squad and I think AU did the same so they weren’t afraid of getting beaten and both took the game to Liverpool in a way that SFC didn’t (but msybe that’s a limitation of Arnues sit back and hit them on the break strategy?). Arnie would have had his reasons but if the two friendlies so far I don’t think his team has benefited a whole lot,

          • July 14th 2017 @ 2:17pm
            Caltex Ten & SBS support Australian Football said | July 14th 2017 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

            What Arnold did was unacceptable as far as I am concern. I can remember Ange, when he was in charge of the Melb Vic. he played his best team against the visitors (I think it was Liverpool or Spurs) and they were magnificent—playing a very polished brand of football.

            If we are to win these European football fans over; we need to show them we are not far off the pace. The last two games Arnold and SFC played against Liverpool and Ar$enal were cringe worthy football, which no one would be interested in following—it was a rubbish performance. Give me the brand of football Melb Vic displayed under Ange and you will convert these fans over quickly. Arnold, let Australian Football down, by not taking these games seriously enough.

            I know they are only friendlies, but we were on show and we needed to show the sporting public we are a cultured league—not a back water third world football nation.

            I hope WSW do better than what we (SFC) did in our last two friendlies.

            • July 14th 2017 @ 2:55pm
              Nemesis said | July 14th 2017 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

              “can remember Ange, when he was in charge of the Melb Vic. he played his best team against the visitors”

              MV did play well against Liverpool, but Ange didn’t play his best team.

              Most players hardly had any Aleague experience at that time.

              Player ages in brackets when they started vs Liverpool:

              Geria (20)
              Nabbout (20)
              Pain (19)
              Makarounas (19)
              Galloway (18)
              Ansell (19)

              Traore, Milligan, Archie, Guy Finkler didn’t start.
              Barbarousas, Contreras, Mitch Nichols weren’t in the Starting XI vs Livepool. They all played Aleague that season, but I can’t be sure if they were signed before the Liverpool match, or after.

    • July 14th 2017 @ 8:29am
      Fadida said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      I’m much more interested in the news that Rhyan Grant is out for the season (genuinely disappointing), and that Wanderers have signed Chris Herd

      • July 14th 2017 @ 8:36am
        Al said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

        Life really throws curlies! As Grant was on cloud nine, now nose dived………Grant is a fighter. He’ll return.

        Herd is a good signing

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