The people you meet at the football

By Ben de Buen.

We’ve complained plenty about the weather during these match chronicles, but it’s fair to say that it doesn’t come without reward. The match began before a backdrop a golden sunset that would turn into a night of insomniac seagulls, white caps on a celestial tide.

Like sunsets? Like football? Like filters?

Like sunsets? Like football? Like filters?

AAMI Park is quite fascinating from the outside, it looks like a clutch of footballs with artistic panels. Once you enter the ground you feel like you’re looking up from the inside of a broken eggshell, as though you’re about to hatch. Very photogenic, though.

After scoring the first goal, City settled down beyond repair. The bloke next to me wore a Billy Jones Sunderland jersey. He had two cups of Coke and sat in a broken chair, rocking back in forth with disapproval at City and United’s attempts. The state of his seat did not aggravate him nearly as much as the match.

I changed places during halftime to a spot behind the goal on the north side. The number of occupied seats was like a half toothless mouth, some here, some there.

“Smelling, you stink!” a group of blokes yelled at Jacob Melling who warmed up in the laneway between the goal and the crowd. “Sit down, you’re not going to play!”

“When are you retiring?” Paulo Retre, another one of City’s unused men, was their other moving target. This side of the stands, yet unclaimed by any support group, hosted fans of all sorts.

Bruce Kamau was probably the best news of the night. At 19, the young Adelaide striker decomposed the Melbourne City back line and created the play that descended into the game-winning penalty. It might be players like Kamau and not visitors like David Villa who will bring the most to Australian football. Villa also had a few chances during the match, but his position on the pitch was usually as close to New York as possible and very far from the ball. Things might look up for City now that the Villa affair is over. His stopover proved beneficial for the A-League but it seems that on the pitch, his presence was too much of an experiment.

Villa-flight

David Villa reacts to news that he might have to stay in Melbourne for another week.

Marcelo Carrusca made it 2-1 for Adelaide from the penalty spot. The blokes who had been hassling Melling and Retre, ran up and down the stands with their shirts off. It’s possible they were visitors from other football codes prominent in Melbourne, imitating false but traditional notions of the world game’s following. Trolls.

I moved again. As soon as I sat down, a stranger sat down next to me wanting me to take his photo. I acceded to take his portrait.

fan-in-the-stands

“Shiiiii…” he pronounced waiting for me to focus, his eyes fixed on someone in the stands just above us. Minutes later a fight broke out near the festive Adelaide following. Cops and security guards struggled to remove the culprits. By then the football match became a forgotten matter.

A father with his child then confronted the man who sat next to me. They were on their way out. The two men’s faces were close together and one of their wives insisted that they put the matter to rest.

“Listen mate, when people say the f-word around my kids, I don’t like it either, but I was only saying shit… shit.”

In his defence, many of the Melbourne City fans would have shared this feeling throughout the night, every time Adelaide attacked. And while football should always be a family-friendly matter, touring the stands it became evident that many were there to release the week’s tensions, their true colours unclear.

With the game over, Adelaide supporters hailed coach Josep Gombau. They were the last to leave. Horns clashed outside on Olympic Boulevard, thus continuing the city’s tendency to descend into a feral state when the sun departs.

Melbourne is a different place at night, more so on a Friday after work, when the wind has boozy breath and the soul of the city is an empty bottle of spirits.

AAMI-Park-night

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