Saturday, June 09, 2012

Undercover football

Visiting Melbourne is something I don't do anywhere near enough.  For me, going to Melbourne for work meant being able to get a fix Australian football that doesn't involve the Sydney Swans (something that is a rarity for me).

So after work on a cold winter's night, my friends and I from work all made our way on the tram down towards Etihad Stadium down at Melbourne's docklands.  It was still relatively early, so we went into a pub next to the stadium for a beer and a dinner of chicken parmigiana (I was trying to keep things nice and Victorian after all).

The atmosphere was good.  This was a standard Friday night in Melbourne, and the crowd was slowly gathering for the game. At the pub, supporters from both teams as well as the non-partisan like myself were laughing and talking.  I was surprised by the mix of the crowd.  There were the usual groups of men engaging in the light hearted banter, but there were also groups of women having dinner all decked out in their supporters' apparel, families, couples as well as people from all different ethnic groups.  It was a refreshing thing to see and once again reaffirmed my view that sport (at its best) can play a truly uniting role in a community.

As game time approached, we made our way with the crowds through the cold winds and into the stadium.  This was the first time I had ever been to Etihad Stadium, so I was looking forward to seeing what it was like for myself.  Aussie Rules fans love the MCG, but are generally ambivalent about Etihad.  One of the common criticisms of the stadium being that it lacked the atmosphere of its more illustrious older brother.
Personally I thought it was great.

I was watching Carlton play Geelong, so I had no vested interest in the match and I was able to sit in the perfect climate controlled stadium without feeling the least bit cold.

Looking around the stands, it was also perfectly clear to me that this stadium offered excellent views to the crowd no matter where they were seated.
The modern touch of this stadium is a far cry from my childhood spent shivering in the miserable wet and cold of Waverley.  It is more clinical and sterile than the football I remember, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  My memories are probably seen through rose coloured glasses as I don't seem to remember the painful trials involved in watching football such as trying to find your car after the game at Waverley.  Still, it was nice to be able to reconnect with some things that don't seem to change as one of my mates and I grabbed a bag of hot jam donuts to eat while we watched the game.  

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