“It’s fantastic scoring a goal. I go crazy, it’s like having sex,” explained Milan’s unnecessarily candid midfielder Kevin Prince-Boateng last month.
But like a seedy one-night stand viewed in the cold, hard light of day, there’s often a crestfallen, emotionally wounded party on the flipside of that relationship coin. And on Saturday night, I was that wounded party.
When Sayed Mohamed Adnan crashed home his spectacular free-kick, I was standing in Bay 317 with a small but vocal contingent of Sydney FC supporters. Little did we know our evening was about to get much, much worse.
It all started with a refreshing ale at one of Brisbane’s fine taphouses. The plan was to sink a sneaky pint or two and then head up to Caxton Street to meet friends who had travelled up from Sydney for the game. But like all great plans, particularly those involving alcohol, mine went awry when I spent far too long pontificating on the state of the game to my hapless wife, and we ended up stumbling into the ground not long before kick-off.
The first thing I noticed was that stadium staff were far less aggressive than on previous visits. I’ve attended several A-League games as an away fan, including a couple of trips to Suncorp Stadium, and on at least one occasion I spent more time warding off the overzealous attention of stewards than I did watching any football.
That was happily not the case this time around, although one aspect of getting into the ground left me bemused. As an interstate member of Sydney FC, this season a ticket to my closest away game landed in my mailbox. It’s a terrific initiative, but my ticket wasn’t actually for the away end of the ground. Why? Are clubs so concerned a casual supporter might potentially run into a genuine fan they’d rather stick interstate members on the opposite side of the ground? Seems strange.
At any rate, I strolled into the away end unhindered and the game itself progressed satisfactorily enough – helped along by a rare goal from that poster boy for goals-to-games ratios, Mark Bridge. In fact, for a solid hour the Sky Blues looked liable to do the double over the Roar. But then something happened which changed the complexion of the game irrevocably. Something so transformative, no A-League coach could possibly hope to blunt its effect. Thomas Broich came on.
The game could best be summed up as being played out in two distinct phases, ‘Before Broich’ and ‘After Broich.’ Before Broich, Sydney youngster Rhyan Grant looked cool, calm and collected in defence. After Broich, Grant played as though faced with a long walk on a hot bitumen road having forgotten his pair of thongs. Such was the inherent panic the German caused in the Sydney defence, a Roar goal seemed inevitable.
And it duly arrived in the 87th minute. Only it didn’t. Besart Berisha – hitherto seen in fleeting glimpses nipping at the heels of Pascal Bosschaart – tapped home from close range, only for the goal to be ruled out by an offside flag. And that’s when I made the fatal error of leaning over to my wife and whispering that I’d just won enough to pay for our drinks by backing the Sky Blues. Big mistake.
For what it’s worth, I thought Adnan’s goal was superb. It reminded me of another goal which made my heart sink when I saw it live on ground – Darijo Srna’s stupendous free-kick against the Socceroos in Stuttgart. Except this game had a far different outcome, at least from my vantage point.
Berisha’s winner in the fifth minute of stoppage time seemed largely academic. As Sydney fans, we were still reeling from Adnan’s equaliser to care about another dropped point. And while I’m not technically sure if Berisha qualifies as being mad as a march hare or crazy as a cut snake, whatever his definition of lunacy, we only came to life again when the excitable Albanian careered shirtless towards the tunnel, gesticulating wildly at Bosschaart.
From where I was standing it was impossible to tell what happened next, so I’m relieved the commercial TV networks informed me the following day that the match had been “marred by ugly scenes” culminating in “an all-in brawl.” Phew. Lucky they mentioned it, or I’d have forgotten lives were in mortal danger simply attending an A-League game!
Subdued, tired and already nursing the impending effects of a hangover, I somehow conspired to lose sight of my friends precisely five seconds after we’d exited the ground. So like a sheepish lothario setting out on a walk of shame, the next stop was home. The result may not have been as desired, but that’s to overlook an important point.
When you’re on the losing side of a game of football – no matter how eventful – sometimes the best remedy is to just pick yourself up, brush yourself off… and pretend it never happened.