Victory matches often clash with dinnertime. Even if kickoff isn’t until 7.40, the matter of getting to the grounds consumes the preceding hour. So I chose a very early dinner at home this time instead of the stadium chips and soy seagull chicken tenders that are more weightless and airy than any other chicken ever. Melbourne Victory has two poultry references on their strip but this obviously means nothing to anyone.
More than thirty years attending football stadiums has given me the insight to know that the top team in the league is most likely to lose at home against the bottom team. Fables and biblical passages have been written about similar David and Goliath disputes. Truth is, in football nobody is as good as they think, the same way nobody is as bad as they look.
The match on the pitch would be second to minor distractions, whether it was seagulls gathering, teenagers grinning into their cans of Red Bull, the faint smudge of the National Rugby League logo on the pitch, the discomforting sound of those noise makers provided free by sponsors, or the father holding his sleeping child but remaining in the stands to witness the final result. Or the tops of CBD skyscrapers in the stadium background, yellow squares of light shining through celestial windows. Someone is working late in the overtime minutes of the workweek. Something didn’t add up.
Newcastle found a goal in the second half. With the passing minutes it became evident that Victory were not their usual selves. They were in each other’s way, they failed on the last touch, and they were unable to create an incisive play, off key and a beat too slow, lacking credibility like the chicken tenders of AAMI Park.
Few satisfactions remained for the taking. Newcastle reaped most of them stirring the local crowd with traditional time wasting tactics: rolling on the ground, taking their time to put the ball back into play, bringing out the stretcher only to send it back empty after a player’s miracle recovery from injury. The last chance of saving the night was to run away at the 88th minute, disposing any trace of faith in your team and claiming the small victory of beating the crowds (a sin in the unwritten code of football fandom).
But like most sinful acts, there is satisfaction in getting away with it. As I rounded the MCG, I checked the final score. Still 0-1.