The position of football in Brisbane’s hot, humid, sun-soaked and sepia-tinged sporting landscape is, much like peak Thomas Broich, hard to pin down.
The Broncos loom large over all other teams in the city, a simultaneous sun god and death star fuelled by XXXX, Bundy, and the keen sense of identity and pride that rugby league has provided Queensland.
Trailing in the Broncos’ wake is basically every other sport, with geographic and socioeconomic variables contributing to a mish-mash of overlapping cultures.
Football has always been a background-noise kind of hum in Brisbane, ticking along nicely before suddenly piercing the mainstream consciousness with shrill and mad moments, such as the Strikers’ epochal 1997 NSL grand final win at a packed Lang Park, or the thrilling and genuinely iconic Roar titles of 2011, 2012 and 2014.
Well-known institutions such as Brisbane City and Queensland Lions are merely the most visible of the truly historic and enduring clubs that litter the city, with names such as Taringa Rovers, Toowong FC, Mitchelton FC, Souths United and Albany Creek Excelsior proving to be community pillars and proper homes away from home for the football obsessed.
Like much of Australia’s history, Sydney and Melbourne tend to magnetically attract the most news and publicity. The sheer amount of Socceroos the two cities have produced demands respect and attention, not to mention the biggest clubs that have bestrode the country originate from there, transitioning from the NSL decades of Melbourne Knights and Marconi to the twin A-League behemoths of Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory.
The ‘big country town’ vibe of the northern capital is seen as both a strength and a weakness in relation to Sydney and Melbourne. While it can be a hindrance to cultivating a more vivacious and colourful fandom (The Den and ethnic-affiliated clubs being brilliant exceptions), the near-horizontal nature of the place is something people here appreciate and embrace, especially when it comes to the non-football aspects of life.
The Roar have the well-wishes of most in the city, as most people still fondly hark back to where they were for the ‘11,’12 and ‘14 grand finals, and the brand-name power of Robbie Fowler has helped top up the core, hardy fan-base with a healthy dose of interest from the mainstream this season.
Results had been the best in years before the coronavirus halt, and adding the guile and experience of ex-Celtic man and Socceroo Scott McDonald in January appeared to have been a masterstroke.
Of course, like many, I yearn for a 15-20,000 capacity stadium close to the city for the Roar to call home (when I win the lotto I am buying and redeveloping Perry Park), as the games at Dolphin Oval in Redcliffe demonstrated the atmospheric potency of smaller grounds. But for now, the comfort and accessibility of Suncorp Stadium does the job.
In the past one could have levelled the term ‘Eurosnob’ at me, such is my love and fanaticism for all things European football, but since returning to Brisbane last year after years overseas, the home comforts and snug, homely feel of the A-League and local football has brought me full circle.
If there’s one song that crystallises Brisbane’s attitude towards football, it’s ‘Steady, as she goes’ by The Raconteurs, so crank it up and raise a Milton Mango to the future of Brisbane football.