Sunday’s twilight grand final between Melbourne City and Sydney FC pits two teams with historically stark differences in their levels of success up against each other.
The original Sky Blues have five A-League championships, four Premier’s Plates and enjoy modern domination of the competition after having claimed the famous toilet seat in three of the last four seasons.
There is nothing unusual about such dominance. One needs only to cast an eye to Scotland, Italy or Germany to see clear examples of teams demolishing the opposition year after year and enjoying long runs of somewhat unchallenged success.
However, there is also nothing unusual about fans of other teams hating such dominance and hoping that the run comes crashing down in the most embarrassing and hurtful blaze of glory. That is exactly what fans of most A-League clubs will be hoping for on Sunday.
Wanderers’ people will be primed and ready to head to the streets to let the ‘smurfs’ know they have lost. Victory supporters will be keen to see their big blue rival eat some humiliating dirt and followers of fellow New South Wales residents Central Coast and Newcastle will not care one iota if the Sydney FC players end up in tears of despair after an agonising loss in extra-time or, better yet, penalties.
Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane folk will no doubt do the same, considering the many tight and controversial battles they have fought with the Sydney silver tails over the years.
Frankly, the majority of football fans in Australia will be hoping the Sky Blues freeze in the headlights and choke at the vital moment.
Those fans aren’t necessarily nasty. In fact most are probably reasonable people who embrace their own team and the game and are more than capable of sitting with an opposition supporter without feeling the need to fire an ice-pick through their temple.
But when it comes to Sydney FC, something changes.
In a football sense, those usually moderate folk hold the view that the most populated city in Australia is overcrowded, brash, elitist and arrogant. They believe the people there are a pack of lefty, hippie, judgmental clowns, hell-bent on destroying the traditional fabric of the country and turning it into some high-rise dwelling, gluten-free tasting, non-binary haven of debauchery and lawlessness.
They also appear to know in all certainty that their football team achieves its success through rather unscrupulous means and has never been held accountable for it.
The common view is that penalties always arrive right on time for the Sky Blues, historically low rates of yellow cards have not occurred naturally and are a by-product of choreographed planning by the powers at be and that the general flow of decisions always appears to go in the favour of Football Australia’s favourite son.
Not to mention the players and coaches. The collective view seems to be that Rhyan Grant is a bogan thug, Alex Wilkinson commits football murder on a weekly basis but is never sanctioned and that the team still plays with some sort of brutal Graham Arnold-born illegality.
No matter how much skill and flair Milos Ninkovic, Alex Baumjohann, Bobo and Kosta Barbarouses show this weekend, to those firmly in the anti-Sydney camp, their successes will be lessened by accusations that they were aided by referees, supporting by FA and part of some over-arching conspiracy to ensure that Sydney FC dominates the competition.
It all adds up to a level of disdain that will see the boys from City enter the grand final as the strong favourite with a majority of fans.
The counterargument that Sydney are the most professional club in the league, astute in recruitment and retention and consistent in performing at a high level no matter the circumstances, will never be accepted by many.
To them, Sydney FC are all that is bad about the Australian game. An elitist, wealthy and unfairly advantaged group that everyone else must battle without the quality of tools required to do so. If that conspiracy theory is true, I guess the Sky Blues will land title number six on Sunday.
However, Melbourne City may well have the weight of most Australian football fans on their back. Will that be enough to drive them to victory?