Travelling to Sydney is always a good moment, having close ties with the city both as I have plenty of family there, but as I lived there for some time.
This time I made time to go to a Wanderers game. They were playing Adelaide on November 1st 2013 and so it was an opportunity to see my hometown team but more importantly witness what all the fuzz was about regarding Western Sydney supporters and the atmosphere they create.
A smooth flight and quick landing at Botany and I was here, ready to make tracks towards Parramatta. As we arrived only minutes before 6pm, I only had 90 minutes to negotiate my travel out west to ‘Parra’. There was no way I was going to be part of the car-park that is the M5 traffic situation. So I was all in – by train.
Thankfully the queues were small purchasing tickets for the train and the wait for the next train to Central Station was non-existent. I was making good time.
I was quick to remember my experiences commuting by trains and so upon getting to Central, I navigated to Platform 18 – The Western Line, and in only minutes I was on an express train of heading to Parramatta with only a stop at Redfern along the way.
Some Wanderers fans were also making their way on the same train – they had not found their voice yet.
The ride went fast. It had barely past 6.30pm when I arrived at Parramatta.
It was to be a nice evening, perfect conditions for football – and just as good as a fan. Church Street stood before me and it was where I was meeting friends, albeit down the bottom end near the Stadium, so along I went, and went.
What I had seen getting there was something else. Fans dressed in red and black scattered all around; cafes, restaurants and pubs full of people. It was vibrant and much of this attributed to the football. There was a procession of fans heading towards the ground.
The walk took longer than I imagined but I finally found myself outside the Royal Oak Hotel. I was greeted by some familiar faces and quite a few new ones. It was a family outing; there were at least 15 men, women and children in our group and all but I were in team colours. We continued to walk to Parramatta Stadium.
It was only two blocks away, and we had finally made it and with enough time for a refreshment and to settle in. Some of my friends headed off to the RBB end and to go and participate to engine of the machine, the noise, the support. I found myself in members seating and with a good enough view to analyse the game (if that was the intention).
This time however I was not as interested in the game played at ground level but the enjoyment, entertainment and the atmosphere I had only seen on television thus far.
The game neared and I tucked into my ale. It wasn’t any good, but I was not here for the mid-strength they were pulling, I was here for the game. The drums started beating and the RBB got into swing.
The Red and Black Bloc sung “RBB, ole ole ole, RBB ole, RBB ole ole” and it continued and it roared. That went for at least 15 minutes to when then changed their chant and began singing to the other stands “Who do we sing for?” to which was answered “We sing for Wanderers!” First they sang to their left, then their right (and where we were sitting), and then the opposite end of the field.
The chants were loud and they were without break. The RBB hardly sat down, but when they did it was part of the next song as they waited for the moment to leap off their seat and start jumping around to dance and sing. It brought the rest of the crowd in who followed in unison.
It was amazing to see that children and adults were all involved, and sang together and jumped around and waved their scarfs round and round in the air. At other stadiums around Australia it is not uncommon to see young children switching off the football altogether, playing with their iPads or other electronic devices, but not here!
This was amazingly unique, and how the power of football can be such to control these people and their emotions.
Having previously seen A-League games at venues such the Sydney Football Stadium, Central Coast’s Blue Tongue Stadium, Westpac Park and Etihad in Melbourne and my local, Hindmarsh Stadium I never experienced this feeling I was having. It was surprising and unusual to have the same chills go down my spine and anxiousness that I had experienced only at Anfield in Liverpool and during the playing of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at the MCG earlier this year in the friendly between Melbourne Victory and Liverpool FC. It was happening right here in Australia and in the A-League!
My friends mentioned to me at half time “Just wait till the Poznan at 80 minutes, don’t miss it”. So I waited in anticipation. In the meantime I had seen Adelaide take the lead through Marcelo Carrusca only to be pegged back by former United player Tomi Juric, who then also scored the goal to go ahead. Both were fine finishes with a right foot shot and header from a crossed ball respectively.
Then, just as the Wanderers just finished celebrating the second and what was to be the winning goal, we had arrived at the 80th minute; Time for the Poznan.
Our group turned our back on the game, and astonishingly everyone we were now facing had done also. As I jumped and danced, and recorded this phenomenon on my phone’s camera, I looked around only to see the whole stadium doing the same as us. It lasted for 1 minute – perhaps we were lucky not to miss any goals.
The night was complete. There were still moments where WSW could have scored. The life had seemingly been beaten out of Adelaide United as they looked tired and hung on to the 1 goal deficit.
At the end of the match most of the supporters stayed glued to their seats or stood. I was astonished that the majority wore the team outfit either home or away or a polo shirt. To be fair it is and imposing sight. Nike puts some good gear together. They waited as their team went around the ground to thank their fans.
I found out that one of the leaders of the RBB was moving overseas and so the team had gone over to the RBB, and handed him a match shirt as a gift for his service. Then they participated in the chanting of “Who do you sing for”, to which the RBB shouted back “We sing for Wanderers”. It is great to see the team have a fantastic connection with the fans.
Now the night was complete.
Despite the result, the evening was fun and an entirely different perspective on the game in Australia. What amazed me was the level of interaction for all fans irrespective of age, gender or race.
The noise and the volume at which it had been produced were entirely new to me. How 16,000 fans can be made to sound like 50,000 whereas in other places it is the other way around.
The colour and support for the team is unrivalled, in my opinion. It is a massive breeding ground for football – yes, but the fans feel they truly belong, and that comes out in the way they support their team. Kudos to them.
In terms of football, they are a good team. They have strong guidance from the manager Tony Popovic. Their game plan is transparent, and they like to play attractive football with a purpose. Their star player Shinji Ono is world-class, and brings other players into the game, and is a player that will help raise the standards of football in the A-League.
My advice to others; It is worth the trip! I am now planning my next trip.