I thought I would just reach out and touch base with you all, knowing that a few weeks have passed since your respective grand finals and that the dust has now settled on your 2021 seasons.
Mighty victories they were for the Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Demons; cracking climaxes, despite being very different storylines in terms of the closeness of the matches.
Many of us over here in football world keep a close eye on your rough and tumble activities, some of us even have ardent loyalty towards the local teams we grew up supporting, own memberships and the odd few like me, even write about the game each week.
There are, of course, a small percentage of round ball fanatics who make fun of the consistent off-field indiscretions that tarnish your codes and mock the rather macho and sometimes misogynistic undertones that cast them in a poor light.
However, I can assure you that they are no more in number than the yobbos and boofheads who constantly question the toughness of what they refer to as ‘soccer players’. You know who I mean, those critics who cite diving and the faking of injuries as evidence of weakness, despite having less than a fundamental understanding of the game. I guess you get idiots on either side of the fence, hey?
It is with that spirit of understanding and collegiality that I ask whether you will be jumping on board the new A-League Men season that begins on the 19th of November. Frankly, we are all very excited about it and curious as to whether you are feeling the same way.
We have waited a heck of a long time for the season to arrive and there may yet still be a few pandemic/travel/vaccination hurdles to jump over, however, all is in readiness for last season’s champions Melbourne City to begin their title defence when they tackle the Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park next Friday.
Football Australia is keen to see you out there and at the other matches across the country. Be you in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth or Newcastle, there is a match for you to attend.
Perhaps you have felt reluctant in the past, no doubt convinced by negative talk suggesting that the A-League Men is not of the quality required to earn your eyeballs. However, always keep in mind that the majority of those people circulating such views are judging the league against an impossible bar.
Those folk are usually childhood fans of historically successful English clubs like Liverpool or Manchester United and their view is that the Australian standard pales in comparison. In reality, they are right, yet as does all bar three or four football leagues in the world and those of us who embrace our domestic competition actually receive a heap of satisfaction from it.
We even have a phrase for people like that, Eurosnobs. Definition: those deriding any competition outside of the major European leagues as sub-standard and pointless. Thankfully, most of you are no doubt more open-minded than that.
As you throw yourself into our new 26-round competition, be sure to remember that Saturday nights will now feature a live, free-to-air blockbuster each and every week on Network Ten. As football fans, it is something we are extremely excited about and I am sure the hairs on the back of your neck were standing up when you first caught a glimpse of the new advertisements that have begun popping up on the network.
This week’s instalment is a Sydney Derby between Sydney FC and Western Sydney and for those of you in the Harbour City planning to attend, it will provide you will another counterpoint to some of the misinformation that may have kept you away in the past.
Despite the history of mainstream news salivating for and pouncing on a single unsavoury A-League moment and sensationalising it according to the demands of their audience, I feel certain you will enjoy the atmosphere at the match, love the banter, singing, passion and the entire event.
I guarantee you no one will be shot, your family will make it out alive and the crowd will be almost exclusively made up of people attending the game for the exact same reason as you. It is something we are very proud of in Australian football.
A similar opportunity presents itself for people in the other cities hosting matches this weekend and it would be great to see all the Eagles and Dockers fans get out to HBF Park for former Liverpool and England star Daniel Sturridge’s debut for Perth Glory, when they take on Adelaide United.
I am sure you have been keeping abreast of the build-up and hype, hopefully you’ve already purchased a team cap or scarf and I, for one, am so looking forward to chatting with you in the stands and seeing your passion for domestic football grow.
Our A-League Women’s competition is not too far away either and while our players may not charge at each other like angry rhinoceros, or suffer frightful head injuries that pose serious concerns to players’ long-term health, the dextrous skill that you see on show will no doubt impress.
It will be great to have you on board.
After all, one can only watch so much cricket!