At all levels of football it’s the fans that make the club. Cronan Yu talks to a passionate supporter of FFA Cup hopefuls Lions FC...
In the south-east of Queensland is a thriving Brisbane outer-suburb. Established in 1975, Richlands is a multicultural hub with a vibrant youthfulness about it.
A melting pot of nationalities from India, the Philippines, Vietnam and Samoa and – in the midst of it – home to Queensland Lions FC.
The Brisbane Premier League outfit narrowly edged out Croydon Kings 2-1 in their FFA Cup Round of 32 tie just over a fortnight ago.
A 14th minute strike from forward Shoheel Khan and an Andre Bonotto penalty was enough to ease the side into the final 16 where they meet Perth Glory at Perry Park.
But even Wednesday evening’s opponents can hardly boast a history as rich as their Queensland counterparts.
In the post-war period, which saw an increase in migrants into the country, several Dutch immigrants established the club which would leave an imprint in Australian football history.
“I’ve been a part of the club since I was five–years-old, that’s 43 years now,” supporter David Mollee said.
“My father, Ben, was one of the finding members and my uncle Hank is the current chairman who was also one of the founding members.
“My father’s side is Dutch, which goes back to the Dutch immigrant side of things, he’s been there since he was young, 16 in fact. I’ve been here since a young age and my son, Danyon, has also been there since he was five and made his first team debut this year.
“What sets us apart is our professionalism – it’s a very professional club – one of the bigger clubs in Brisbane and has a good winning culture as well as nurturing one for kids to go on further endeavours in the game.”
Founded in 1957, the then Hollandia participated in the lower echelons of Queensland football before being invited as a foundation member into the now defunct National Soccer League. Lions FC then played a crucial role as the founding club of A-League side Brisbane Roar.
But for Mollee, the club is more than simply his home of football, the blood of his family runs deep into the veins of the club.
“Before the A-League, we won the premiership and won the licence to form the Brisbane Roar, and we were basically the founding club of the Roar, giving them the rights to become what they are,” Mollee recalled.
“There have been a lot of friendships forged at the club. The kids grow up together so 10 years down the track, they’re still great mates. We have a group of supporters who stick together and we’re always looking out for each other – it’s like a family within a family – we look out for each other and lots of people willing to go out of their way to help give the kids an enjoyable experience.
“The club, though, has obviously lost several members through illness and I’ve always thought, irrespective of which club is, you don’t realise how close the family is until it loses one of its members.
“Then everyone comes together to celebrate the life of that person. There have been a couple who have passed and I recall people expressing that it’s a shame you can’t get a turnout like that to celebrate when they’re still around.”
Mollee is confident of victory when Lions FC take on A-League outfit Perth Glory, and insists their run in the competition has already had a positive impact.
“Of course we can win,” he said.
“We were part of the NSL in ‘82 when we won the Phillips Cup, the equivalent of the FFA Cup, and I was playing then. That’d probably be the single biggest moment as well as premierships that we have won… we can do it again.
“The win over Croydon Kings has made a huge difference already. I was part of the supporters group that went down to Adelaide and saw it firsthand.
“I recall the morning we were flying down, there was an article in the Courier Mail, something which never happens at this level of football with an emphasis on rugby league, so to get a little write-up is unheard of.
“While we were down there, in the Adelaide paper, there was a lot of interest with a half-page spread and hence a lot of exposure especially from the media.
“Interest on social media, especially on Facebook for the upcoming round of 16 game has gone through the roof. People not involved in the club are asking for tickets and being involved in supporting. It’s almost like we’re carrying the flag for Brisbane and the clubs that wouldn’t traditionally support us are all behind us.”
Irrespective of whether the Queensland Lions progress to the quarter-finals stage of the FFA Cup, Mollee is proud of the club’s culture in honing talent and revealed the club’s ambition to qualify for the National Premier League.
“A lot comes down to campaigning in the local area, the well-developed area of the western suburbs of Brisbane,” he said.
“Advertising through local papers and a good junior program from four in “Squirts” – kids who rock up to kick a ball, learning even when they don’t know they are and introducing them to the fun of football, that has been a big push from the club.
“We will continue to aim to get the club back to its roots, high level, professional football in Queensland, perhaps a step towards the NPL in the future.”