Last week, I was able to enjoy a football match without the distraction of others.
For the uninitiated, such an unaccompanied trip might seem daunting. However, once you make the effort, you realise nobody is really on one’s own, especially in a crowd of over 4000 people.
It was an FFA Cup game at Leichhardt Oval, and I was by myself, having decided to spend an evening on the grassy hill, watching APIA play the Wanderers.
There were a few other solitary fans, dressed in casual gear, possibly also neutral supporters as well.
Sitting on the wet turf, I didn’t whisper a word to them. Instead, I politely cheered, modestly at first, while the sun drifted over the western stands.
Then, Jason Romero struck. As the sky illuminated a faint orange glow, the APIA forward bamboozled the Wanderers’ sluggish defence, slotting the ball home.
Twilight had arrived, and the crowd cheered, many pumping their fists towards the heavens. For a brief moment, we were harmoniously linked.
While on the pitch, under a sweaty tuft of ginger hair, hunched an exiled Scotsman, rueing his younger Wanderers’ teammates.
Only half an hour had passed, but you could already tell the sun had truly set on a tired Ziggy Gordon.
That’s when I knew Western Sydney was playing disjointed football, each man working individually, not as a team.
It’s when APIA’s men raised their voices, some howling words of encouragement within the group, others snarling at the opposition.
Somehow, Leichhardt had mentally bullied Western Sydney into submission. They had made the Wanderers believe they were alone.
That evening, I had felt the exact same way before I left the house. After lacing up, I paced in front of the mirror, listening to my supportive coach.
“Just go,” said my reassuring wife, noticing my anxiety. “You’ll enjoy yourself.”
It was a waxing crescent moon that night. A fresh beginning.
For APIA, it was a chance to mark their territory, cementing the club’s reputation as the Inner West’s “icon and institution”.
A bold statement, no doubt. In fact, this is the direct quote to a banner sprawled outside Leichhardt’s historic town hall. You’ll see it on Norton Street.
Yes, I’ll be there for the next game, Mr Billboard. It’ll be the quarter-finals, after all. “Don’t miss the Leichhardt sporting event of the decade”.
In a sea of blue shirts, I’ll be the individual island, all dressed in yellow. Just look out for the albatross around my neck.