Twas the night before the grand public opening of Bank West Stadium an the Red and Black had a plan to repaint the town in our club colours, again.
The biggest of rivalries, and the most hate filled game days where our big brother in SkyBlue, take on, us, their little brother in Red and Black, for the last time this season. Crowds rumoured to return to ANZ for the last derby to be held in the stadium, before their return to their original stomping ground, in Parramatta.
My contribution to the attendance? Returning to the RBB for a special appearance, of course. We all decide to come back and support the boys for one game, even though our equipment has been limited over the season (drums), Derby Tifo’s banned, new rules from security for flags and banners are flying around the grounds (no pun intended), our bond with the club has run cold and we improvise without a Capo stand or megaphone. Still, leaving our boys without support during a very important game like a Derby, is something we refuse to do.
Because “Win or lose, we will always follow you, let it rain let it pour, we will sing forever more.”
There may not have been chanting in a storm this time, but the storm was giving our damaged, football loving hearts a jump start to keep going, no matter the result. And we did.
Whatever numbers we had, we made our way across the city, from our meeting point in Parramatta, to Sydney Olympic Park. We make our way across the stadium in silence, mentally preparing for what is to come.
Me and younger brother, having to split from the crew and enter through General Admission, as RBB tickets were “sold out” prior to the game (I beg to differ)…So we do the typical West Sydney thing, and crawl under the barriers to make our way into the active, keeping our promise to the team and prepare to make some noise.
As we unpack, prepare and stand on the second level of our active bay, high up, able to see the whole field in front of us. We start, and so do the boys on the field.
Yet it starts off horribly, with 7 minutes in, we’ve already conceded a goal to Sky-blue Capitano, Alex Brosque. Another, all too familiar, set of lazy defending, panic, and not enough effort to attempt to stop it. We basically fell asleep.
Chances arose throughout the first half to try and make it levelled, but the intensity on the field reflected the same intensity in our active at this point in time.
Here’s the thing, and I’ll say it here because Twitter only gives you so many characters to vent. If you are in the active support, your job is to sing for 90 minutes, no matter the result, you are the 12th man/woman who plays with the squad, yet from the stands. If you were to see Elrich walk over to the sidelines and start texting on his f*cking phone, people would have lost it over the little respect and dedication he has for his team and the game.
Same goes for the active.
As much as I wanted to film last night, and show EVERYONE on the TLL instagram page, or other platforms, how hard we work and how loud we sing, I knew, and was also told Kindly (yes, kindly, the RBB are not aggressive at everyone and everything 24/7) not to film and just focus. I took that, and I used it. To realise that the boys need us tonight, to get your whole f*cking head in the game, or leave!
So, if you’re not singing, not jumping around, standing around on your phone and having a laugh with your mates in the middle of the crowd, I kindly ask you, if you are reading this article, please leave, and let us do our jobs.
As the first half started to close, our Capo disappeared for a good few minutes, as we were left to chant on our own and follow the beat of our own drum. As we began to die down, so did the team. Attempt after attempt fell short, frustrating every single person in Red and Black, that sat, stood, chanted and played in the stadium. A frustrating last 10 minutes to the first half, but we had other problems other than the 1 – 0 scoreline.
A frustrated Capo returns, with the front line of the RBB in talks to begin a new chant, and after a few minutes of silence, we begin up again, with a controversial chant that echoed throughout the entire stadium, drowning out even The Cove, on the opposite end.
The words “We are the grubs, of West Sydney, Go F*ck yourself A.C.A.B (towards the AFPD)” This chant rings around the grounds until half time and when the chanting ends and people scatter for a break at half time, it is announced the reason for why we had sung that.
Yes, the reports are very true from where I was standing, and I was standing in the thick of the active, proudly, steps away from our ensembles on the drums and conductor/Capo.
A mother and son had been removed for “swearing”…
As much as swearing is frowned upon and I understand that in public, it is considered an offence. But cursing is used in every code, more heavily and vulgarly in other codes around the country, where many others have never been removed for. To have a mother and son removed, mid game…angered us. So if you wanna take one, then you have to take us all. We stand together. So that chant, was in support of the fans that were removed.
We assemble again for the second half, and we start off with quick responses! Finally starting to fight back, Sydney FC begin to panic, giving us chances from a handful of fouls, until one finally bites the Skyblues back. A free kick given to the Red and Black after a challenge gone wrong on Roly Bonevacia. Baumjohann steps up to take the shot as we watch with baited breath in the RBB.
A low free kick, deflected AND IT HITS THE BACK OF THE NET! Chanting and screaming, pushing and pulling, beer and water cover the active support as we make it 1 – 1 ! And it’s all up from here!
Sydney FC are left rattled, as we notice their style of play begin to falter, their confidence lower and their patience tested. THIS, lifts the spirits in the RBB, as towards the final 20 minutes of the game, Redmayne is tested, the goalposts are hit on 3 different occasions, 1 of them being from Marquee, Oriol Riera, who only just spoke to TLL days ago about his wish to win a Derby before he is to leave, if he is to leave the club next season. These missed opportunities on goal are frustrating but also motivating us as we knew we were on the right track and just needed to change a few finishing touched to get another result.
We continue to chant, getting louder and stronger, for small numbers, we are making big waves. Our Capo is needed to dart away from conducting the crowd a few more times to aid with another incident on the side, but we continue to hold our own, shoulder to shoulder, we stood tall.
In injury time, as Le Fondre shoots from distance, sending the ball well over the defense and surly into the path of the goals. A heart stopping and ‘frozen in time’ moment, my gut telling me “this is it, Vedran is gonna miss, fumble and it’s going to land in the goals and we’ll lose”, but we received the complete opposite, as the shot was saved after a magnificent leap and a parry away, for an FC corner. Following the corner, was a strong and confident catch, followed by a long throw in to start up one FINAL attack.
It ends in 1 – 1, a draw is better than a lost to us, amongst the active. Our job here is done, our voices raspy, our hands sting from clapping, our legs aching from jumping, our pride fixed just that bit more.
Last Derby at the infamous ANZ stadium, a relief amongst us all. We all say our goodbyes and go our separate ways, half towards the fence line, half towards the exit.
I, make my way down to the fence line to meet with a tired and half relieved, half disappointed Riera, understanding why he feels incomplete. His goal was to win, at least a derby, if not the league. The media is right about one thing, he is the right striker at the wrong time…a valuable asset to the club, a club that would be insane to let him go as he has so much to give. The team may have taken time to find their feet, but next season, I think we have finally have it together, and with players like Oriol, Baumjohann, Duke and Yeboah, as well as a return from injury, Ziegler. There may just be a chance at the title..the title we’ve been working so hard to get, since we were formed.
Maybe next season, things will start to come together again. Step by step.
But ladies and gentlemen, we can’t do it alone, nor can we expect the opening of a brand new stadium in the heart of the west, to fix all our problems. First we must face our wrongs, lies, cover ups and faults. Only then can we start mending and growing stronger, again.
By Christina Trajceska