Crowd violence flares in fiery A-League clash

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In an adventurous pre-game promo, Football Federation Australia billed it is as “football’s biggest rivalry.” Forget the Premier League or the World Cup finals – apparently Adelaide United versus Melbourne Victory is the pinnacle of the game.

But in the wake of a heated clash between two of the A-League’s fiercest rivals, it was hyperbole of a different kind gracing the website of the Adelaide Advertiser.

“Ban soccer hooligans” read one bizarre post-match headline, although whether that was an impassioned plea or the result of some lazy sub-editing is anyone’s guess.

However, there was nothing ambiguous about the nightly news bulletins, and the fact that 29 fans were ejected from a near-capacity crowd of 15,038 at Hindmarsh Stadium was quoted with as much frequency as the 2-0 scoreline to Melbourne.

The Advertiser employed some comical YouTube footage to illustrate the threat of rabid football fans, although it mainly leaves viewers with the impression that Adelaide fans hate Melbourne supporters because they’re Victorian.

In fact, apart from some footage of pimply-faced teenagers being dragged away by  police officers, there was very little to suggest the sky was falling due to the actions of a few rowdy A-League fans.

Such is the Australian mainstream media, though, with its vested interests in the more prominent sports of cricket, Australian Rules football and the National Rugby League.

There’s a wonderful passage in Matthew Hall’s book “The Away Game” that illustrates the relish with which mainstream Australia denigrates football fans.

In it, Hall relates the story of a lone intoxicated fan ejected from a National Soccer League game at Wollongong’s WIN Stadium after being subdued by a posse of capsicum-spray wielding police.

The presiding judge latter saw fit to label it one of the worst cases of “European soccer violence” he’d ever encountered in Australia.

The man’s crime? Muttering the word “testicles” at the seemingly terrified officers.

Hall ponders the hysteria associated with Australia’s football supporters from high up in the stands of the Stadio Olimpico, as he takes in a typically chaotic Rome derby amidst knife-wielding Lazio fans and their flare-lobbing Roma counterparts.

But while A-League fans rightly condemn the sensationalist headlines that accompany anti-social fan behaviour, there’s no denying that such behaviour is cannon fodder for the daily news.

So it was with an exasperated air that fans of both Adelaide and Melbourne hit the message boards in the wake of this fiery clash, to lament the fact that those accused of throwing bottles and ripping flares are “once a year” types.

Like the recent Carling Cup clash that attracted so many West Ham and Millwall thugs to the Boleyn Ground, the meeting of Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory has become a beacon for those looking to revel in the edgier side of the game.

Melbourne Victory, in particular, have a reputation for attracting hooligans.

When police attempted to check the ID of one fan inside Hindmarsh Stadium – who may have been the subject of a banning order – his refusal to co-operate led to a scuffle with police that resulted in most of the ejections.

For all the off-field shenanighans, the match itself failed to reach any great heights.

From the moment Nick Ward beat former Victory keeper Eugene Galekovic with a freak cross-come-shot from the touchline barely seven minutes in, it always looked set to be a one-sided affair.

Nevertheless it took until the final minute of play for Grant Brebner to confirm the result as he slammed home from a scrappy build-up, by which time the police were more concerned with the prospect of keeping the two sets of supporters apart.

They didn’t do too well, by all accounts, with officers marching the visiting fans straight into a crowd of angry Adelaide supporters.

Cue more juvenile taunts and threats of violence – all appropriately dealt with by the local constabulary, who were no doubt prepared for the animosity given the history of the two clubs.

There are far worse problems in Australian society than the relatively minor threat of football fans coming to blows.

But while the rest of us could only laugh at Hollywood’s rendition of football violence, some A-League fans clearly regard Green Street Hooligans as a movie of the utmost biographical importance.

It is these fans who are causing headaches for officials, as they continue to wreak havoc with the FFA’s vision of a sanitised, family-friendly A-League.

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