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Opinion

It was meant to be a week of pride for the A-Leagues, but it has turned to utter embarrassment

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Expert
23rd February, 2022
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In a week where Adelaide United will host the first ever A-League Pride Games, everyone involved in Australian football should be feeling a lump in their throat, as Saturday night’s fixtures draw ever nearer.

The Adelaide women will take to the pitch at 4:20pm with Melbourne Victory as their opponent and immense semi-final ramifications circling the contest. In short, Victory are stumbling, Adelaide holding firm and Perth Glory looking to sneak into the final fortnight of the season.

It is one of the most closely fought and potentially exciting culminations to an A-League Women season for some time and Sydney FC’s seemingly obvious claims on the title have been thrown into disarray after a recent loss and some indifferent form.

Just eight points separate the top five and while the rest of the field remains well off the pace, the competitiveness in the women’s league this season has been refreshing and most importantly, interesting for the viewer.

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Alongside corporate partners McDonald’s and Flinders University, Adelaide United has championed the cause when it came to hosting the matches, with a specific emphasis on inclusivity in football participation.

Such a focus and the continued stern rejection of the bigoted and venomous vitriol often directed at people who choose to love in a slightly different way to what their local church might endorse, is morally correct and entirely appropriate.

Reds defender Josh Cavallo and his decision to ‘come out’ in October of 2021 has no doubt been a key motivator behind the decision to host a duo of pride games in Adelaide that, frankly, will see the A-Leagues merely catch up with initiatives in other codes that have been well established and successful for some years now.

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Joshua Cavallo of Adelaide United.

Joshua Cavallo (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

The football community as a whole should be ashamed that it appears to be last cab off the rank when it comes to actively and symbolically supporting the LGBTIQ+ community at some stage of the home-and-away seasons; letting down in the most disappointing way the members of whom play and participate in the Australian game.

It may have taken too long, yet at least the expression of pride in the A-Leagues has arrived and no doubt Adelaide United will do it in brilliant style on Saturday night. There will be a number of gay women playing in the crucial clash with Victory, before Cavallo becomes the focus when the home side tackles the Mariners immediately after.

However, in the most awfully ironic way, the A-Leagues should well be feeling a sense of shame and embarrassment, rather than pride, as what could have been a landmark occasion approaches.

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As one of the most avid and consistent fans of A-League football since entering the journalistic space in 2015, I felt nothing approaching anywhere near a sense of pride as the debacle of injustice unfolded between Melbourne City and Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Park on Tuesday night.

Frankly, it was farcical.

After a to and fro first half, the visitors scored late and appeared likely to enter the sheds with a single-goal lead before utter madness took over. Marco Tilio was brought down just outside the box with seconds remaining and referee Shaun Evans ventured to the sideline to review a moment that seemed fairly clear cut to everyone bar the staunchest of City fans.

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With initial contact clearly outside the area and a heckling coach in the form of Patrick Kisnorbo standing nearby and adding pressure to the situation, Evans erred, fell for Kisnorbo’s nonsense and awarded the worst of penalties.

When Mathew Leckie stomped on Lewis Miller’s foot in the dying stages of the second half, it appeared the Mariners would finally receive some justice and level the match up at 3-3, yet Evans produced the unbelievable yet again by waving away the penalty appeals, despite the obvious contact and Miller in clear agony post-game.

In a week where pride was meant to be the theme, embarrassment and shame took over.

One wonders whether referee Evans has ever played football, such was the madness of the views he formed on the side line. Yet putting his incompetence and poor judgement to the side for a moment, the broader impact on the A-Leagues brand as a whole should not be understated.

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The last thing the A-Leagues needed heading into a race for finals positions on the women’s side that is full of fervour and a Saturday of pride certain to capture hearts and make a serious statement to the bigots that sadly maintain a voice in Australian life, was a referee displaying little common sense or knowledge of the game.

As humans, we all make mistakes. Yet one would like to think most could avoid two in 90 minutes when given ample visual evidence to do so.

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