Just over a week ago there were stories circulating that Melbourne was likely to host Australia’s biggest World Cup Qualifier on the road to Russia. The story went that ANZ Stadium’s surface wasn’t good enough and that the October 11 clash with Japan was held ‘just six days’ after the NRL Grand Final, somehow rendering the surface unplayable. But if the recent international friendly between the Socceroos and Greece is anything to go by, Melbourne won’t be hosting any Internationals in the near future.
Played in front of a disappointing crowd of 33,622 the clash was marred by the disgraceful and provocative actions of large numbers of ‘Greek’ fans. Prior to the match swathes of flag waving fools marched through the streets of Melbourne setting off flares and provoking police into use of force. Reports say that more than 30 flares were set off before the match, one even thrown under a moving bus. FFS!
This brainless act has just given the haters 24 months of ammunition. No doubt the poor crowd numbers were a result of walk-up ticket buyers being scared off by the idiots. Melbourne has a large Greek community and FFA would have been expecting more to file through the gates on a night when weather wasn’t an issue.
Mainstream media reports say that police are trawling through footage (they took), and in partnership with FFA some of the perpetrators can expect bans of up to 5 years. Police made the choice of simply escorting and filming the hiking hordes rather than challenging them. This move was in preference to the likely requirement to call in the riot squad had things got nastier . How embarrassing that the game is associated with so many cretins.
So it’s on the streets of Melbourne that the battle to host the biggest World Cup Qualifier of the 2018 campaign has been won and lost. Surely that’s not a scene that the FFA will risk repeating.
For all intents and purposes, arguments around the ANZ Stadium surface were weak anyway. Amidst all the excuses for a sloppy performance (which was repeated days later in Melbourne), what was forgotten was the fact the ground had received 50 mL of rain in the 24 hours preceding the match. Additionally stories that the Japan match was 6 days after the NRL Grand Final were incorrectly reported by Tom Smithies and Ben Horne. The NRL Grand Final is played on Sunday, 2nd October while the Japan World Cup Qualifier is Tuesday, 11th October, giving ground curators plenty of time for repairs.
Surely their misreporting is not part of another anti-Sydney conspiracy.