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Opinion

The A-League celebrated November 16th in fine style

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18th November, 2019
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The 16th of November will always be a significant day in the history of Australian football.

The date fell on a Saturday in 2019 and a copious amount of celebratory content filtered through social media platforms across the weekend.

Many featured highlights of that famous penalty shootout, John Aloisi’s final strike and the sheer ecstasy of the thrilling climax to the Socceroos’ 2005 victory over Uruguay. Other content was more sentimental, based on personal reflection and people’s vivid memories of the night Australian football finally returned to the World Cup stage.

Whenever the date rolls around, each and every Aussie football fan remembers exactly where they were on that night; who they were with and who they embraced when the Socceroos temporarily snatched away Uruguay’s ‘divine right’ to play the World Cup.

The fundamental reason for such romanticism around the date is the fact that after so many years of painful and unrewarded effort, it was the first occasion that a group of fully-professional Australian footballers were to compete in the tournament.

The achievements of the 1974 team should, and will, never be overlooked, understated or forgotten. However, after spiralling growth in world football during the 1980s and 90s, the establishment of billion-dollar leagues and the emergence of players as truly international personalities, the game had morphed into the global business we see it as today.

In that journey, Australia appeared in danger of being left behind. If heart-breaking losses to Scotland, Iran and Uruguay in the 32 years of World Cup exclusion hinted at anything, it was potentially that as a footballing minnow with a limited talent pool of which to access, Australia would perhaps never qualify again.

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Hence, that night lingers as groundbreaking and history now tells us that, along with a wise move into the Asian Confederation, the Socceroos now belong at the World Cup.

It was fitting that the significance of the date was not lost on the A-League scriptwriters, who came to the party with some groundbreaking and astonishing moments for us all to savour in Round 6 action. Just like November 16, 2005, there were quite a number of unique moments.

It began with a wild evening amid the tragedy of the New South Wales bush fires, with Adelaide facing the Mariners in a match that was threatened as an event the day prior. Thankfully the smoke and debris cleared and the Reds showed how adaptable they are in attack this season with three first-half goals.

With Al Hassan Toure absent, Nikola Mileusnic, Ben Halloran and Riley McGree flew the domestic flag, as Norwegian Kristian Opseth chipped in with a goal of his own.

The A-League’s newest club, with a chance to move to the top of the ladder, drew 5688 people to GMHBA Stadium in Geelong. A sentence many would have seen as unlikely just a few short weeks ago.

Western United are here, bringing fans in and playing some stylish football. However, it was to be the commonly written-off Jets who claimed their first win of the season off the back of an Angus Thurgate goal after 36 minutes.

The VAR intervention that denied Josh Risdon’s equaliser seemed to confirm that the competition had well and truly prepared to pay fitting tribute to the 16th of November. A day later, things got really wild.

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For the first time in the A-League season, Erick Mombaerts looked frazzled on the Melbourne City bench. After a Jamie Maclaren hat trick seemingly had the match in the bag after 51 minutes, establishing a 3-1 lead, Brisbane Roar rallied.

Jamie Maclaren

(Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

Roy O’Donovan added a second hat trick for the night, another rare occurrence and as the net continued to bulge for the home side, Mombaerts’ unfashionable cap became more askew. I have become obsessed with his cap and feel quite convinced that there is a direct correlation between its positioning and the Frenchman’s state of mind.

Astonishingly, the Roar held on in a seven-goal thriller in front of a fervent crowd in Redcliffe in a boutique stadium. The night continued in Sydney with a Big Blue before another great crowd in another boutique-sized stadium.

It was hard to believe but so pleasing to see happening. Could the anniversary of November 16th been the trigger?

The date that celebrates the Socceroos’ return from exile coincided with a slightly abbreviated yet thrilling, unpredictable and dramatic round of play; all amidst the backdrop of another newspaper article death-knelling the A-League and making obtuse comparisons with basketball.

With huge clashes in Western Sydney, Adelaide and Perth next weekend, the fans will no doubt be out celebrating once more. Why wouldn’t they?

On a weekend where we all recollected Australian football’s greatest moment, the A-League decided to do so in fine and entertaining style.

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