I will be uploading a daily(ish) blog during my 3 week stay in Australia, and this trip is made possible by SportsHosts. The following is a part of this series!
Have I mentioned how much I love fall? Lucky for me, I am getting to experience it twice this year. The weather is Melbourne is the ideal Autumn weather (without the pumpkin spice latte craze). I’ve been told many times that they take their coffee very seriously here. And, a flat white was the perfect start to my morning.
I am staying with a long-time friend of one of the founders of SportsHosts. She happens to have two incredibly adorable dachshunds (meaning I feel completely at home here). To start the day, we took them for a walk down to a local cafe where I had my first taste of vegemite. The way to eat it is on a nice piece of toast with heaps of butter and a tiny spread of vegemite. Essentially, what you are left with is very salty butter on toast. I’d definitely eat it again 🙂
The next event I had lined up for the day was a soccer match with two local hosts arranged by SportsHosts. The soccer league here is called the A-League, and the game was between Melbourne City and Perth. Everyone kept calling the game “the final,” so I assumed it was the championship. However, what they call the final here is actually closer to what I am used to calling a quarter final. The championship game is called “the Grand Final.”
Kickoff was at 7pm, which is a late start; most games on Sundays don’t start any later than 5pm. I met my two hosts, Josh and Brett, about a 5 minute walk from the stadium, AAMI Park. We grabbed a few drinks at The Corner Hotel. Another interesting fact is that a lot of bars here are called hotels.
Josh and Brett taught me a lot about sports (and the local slang) in Australia. Being a total dork, I had my phone out and was taking notes. Like, the AFL isn’t as big in Queensland and New South Wales, and that in those states they care greatly about Rugby League, but Rugby League is different than Rugby Union. It reminded me a lot of how some cities in America are huge into college football, and some love hockey. You can learn a lot about a place by these things; that sport says a lot about each location. I have just begun to scratch the surface, and have a lot left to learn about each sport and its culture.
As we walked to the game, we talked about the state of soccer in Australia. The sport is definitely not mainstream, and there tends to be a negative connotation surrounding the sport. People tend to view it as a full of bad fans or just bad news in general. It is like how in Philly, fans threw snowballs at Santa Claus decades ago. However, that haunts them to this day, and any negative action they take in present time just solidifies that belief to everyone. So, there is a bit of an uphill battle for soccer here in Australia.
That said, the fans who were there showed a great interest in the sport. The attendance for a big game like this wasn’t the best (just under 10,000 people). There were some fans from Perth; I am not certain if they travelled here or currently live in Melbourne. If they did travel, that is the equivalent of travelling from LA to Philly for a game. Just like in America, the sections behind the goal are where the supporters sit. Calling them supporters here doesn’t make much sense, as all fans are called supporters. So, the supporters call themselves the Melbourne City Melbournians. The set up was the same as you see in the states – a capo stand with rotating capos leading chants.
A lot of the chants sounded very similar to what you hear in the US or abroad. There was one that stood out to me which was pretty entertaining. It was sang to the beat of Snoop Dogg’s “Drop it Like It’s Hot.” The capo sang out in that tune asking for Cheezels (which looked like circular cheetos), and the fans in the stands threw them down. I asked around about how it started, and no one had any idea but were happy it existed.
Melbourne City did not have their best game and lost 2-0 bringing their season to an end. You got the feeling the game wasn’t going their way pretty early in the game though. After the match, I met up with two friends from the soccer community (The American Outlaws) from the states who happened to be in town. They were also at the soccer game, and seeing them there reminded me why I adore the soccer community. We are 10,000 miles from home, and found each other at a soccer match. SportsHosts works on building a global community through sport, and I can’t think of a better way to highlight this than that moment when we bumped into each other.
We wrapped the night up by heading to a George Costanza themed bar and walking around an area in the city. Melbourne won me over that night. Where we were hanging out, Fitzroy, had a hipster vibe; lots of vegan restaurants, gluten free everything, korean fried chicken. There are so many neighborhoods in the city; a little something for everyone. I can’t wait to explore and learn more.