For those with keen hearing, it might have been picked up on the TV coverage, but for those who were there at AAMI Park for the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifier between Australia and Bangladesh, it was quite obvious. Anti-Sydney FC chants. And not just one or two fans. What on earth was the context for this club rivalry to be brought to the national stage?
Following the ridiculing of the visitors’ national anthem and a lack of respect for the Welcome to Country, this was another embarrassing moment for the real football fans from a city that has been crying out for more major football events. It is universally accepted that club rivalries are set aside and Australia unites as one when the national teams play, and aside from the odd chant that is deemed too close to a club song and is quickly drowned out, there has never been any animosity between fans anywhere else in the country. After all, we are one and free. So why did some elements of the Melbourne crowd feel it necessary to berate their long-term rivals instead of join with their fellow Aussies to help cheer on their team to a marvellous high-scoring victory on a night of celebration? There were plenty of other things to sing about – it was the anniversary, to the day, of John Aloisi’s penalty in 2005, it was the week when the heroes of 1973 were honoured and it was Graham Arnold’s record-breaking game in charge.
Is the rivalry between Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC so strong that it can’t be supressed for the Green and Gold? Those Sydney FC fans who travelled as Socceroos fans on Thursday may well have been singing the alternative words to We Are Australian under their breath, but to be barracked at a national team game by your own supporters, wearing the same shirts and following the same team, is difficult to comprehend. One of Australian football’s staunchest fans, who was there to help set up the Active area before the game on Thursday, laying out flags and tying up banners for fellow fans to enjoy, even had the ignominy of listening to chants against his club side. Over the megaphone he had brought to the game. Even to the most ardent of fans of club football, that is not cool, and the megaphone was quickly ‘disappeared’ to avert any further damaging nonsense.
Is it any wonder that Socceroos Active support often struggles to get it right when elements of the crowd are intent on driving a wedge between the participants? There is a fine line between friendly banter and inappropriate heckling, and some of those so-called fans at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium definitely crossed that invisible line. Not cheering for Jamie Maclaren because he’s a City player? Come on… Just imagine how good the atmosphere would be if that misguided passion was directed instead towards the action on the field?