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Ron Manager

formerly Libertine
Jan 21, 2007
Brisbane, Australia
Before I headed off to Oz I said I'd write a regular blog about what it's like supporting a team on the other side of the world. Here is my first effort by way of an introduction to the Queensland Roar -

Queensland Roar vs Adelaide United – 24th August 2008
Come On!
Imagine this scenario – it’s the final minute of added on time in the first home game of the season. The score is one-all, your team conceded in the first half to a disputed penalty but equalised early in the second. They’ve since dominated the play in the second half but just haven’t managed to score the winning goal. Then we get a corner! What do you think would happen at Roots Hall? As we all know the whole crowd would rise to its feet and scream as one – ‘COME ON SOUTHEND’ – accompanied by the clapping of hands and stamping of feet as we expectantly wait for the ball to be whipped into the box.
It doesn’t work that way in Brisbane though it seems. The above situation occurred in Sundays game against Adelaide United and there was no guttural, instinctive roar from the Suncorp Stadium faithful. No instinctive realisation that this was the final chance to get the three points they deserve from the match and kick off the home campaign with a win. No increase in decibels as a result. Don’t get me wrong, the loyal band of organised home support continued with their chanting that they’d maintained throughout the game and you knew the fans were hopeful of a last minute winner. There was just no final heartfelt plea from the stands, passionately willing it to happen.
This seemed to have a knock on effect on the players. Instead of being raised and inspired by the home support into a final herculean effort to score the winning goal they took a short corner...and most amazingly no one seemed to moan about this. Well, except me – all my years of supporting a lower league team came to the fore as I muttered ‘Oh, for f***s sake – get it in the box’. Diffecence being if I’d have been back in Blighty it would have been shouted at the top of my voice alongside a few thousand other people saying something similar.
The short corner didn’t work of course (do they ever?) and the result ended in a draw. Of course that would probably be the end result if that scenario played itself out in League One instead of the A-League but it does draw up some differences from supporting the Queensland Roar to Southend United, as I’m finding out.
It was beautiful shirt sleeve weather as I walked from Roma Street station to Caxton Street and the Kitty O’Sheas pub which is home to the Orange Army. It’s the sort of sunshine you dream about on the first home game of the season, a welcome chance to watch football in nice conditions before winter kicks in. The difference here is this is winter and the sun will only get fiercer and the temperatures higher as the season progresses. A point demonstrated by the roaring fire by the front bar of the pub as I walk in, it’s clear I haven’t yet acclimatised to living in a tropical climate after a week here because the locals are obviously freezing their bits off as I’m sweltering.
However because I am sweltering the pub means I can have a welcome ice cold Aussie beer for $5 AUD and I walk over to introduce myself to the few orange clad fans who are already in the pub. The culture of internet forums is strong here as in the UK and in preparation for my emigrating to Brisbane I’d signed up to a couple of the Roar sites and been talking to the guys on the net ala Shrimperzone. Now was the time to put some names to faces and I had soon been personally introduced to people who I knew only through weird and wacky usernames. The beer continued to flow – this weather doesn’t help, you drink it like water – and as the pub filled up I met more and more fans. This Orange Army who meet in this pub are the equivalent of The Blue Voice at home and dedicate themselves to generating as much colour and noise from their Bay 332 right behind the goal at the North end of the stadium. As a result almost everyone was clad in bright orange and t-shirts, hoodies and scarfs in the most luminous shade of the colour were being sold. Sight of these hoodies and scarfs confirmed further that the locals were obviously shivering in what seemed to be freezing temperatures for them......as I melted. Regardless of this I enjoyed the craic and bustling to get served at the bar wasn’t much different to being in The Spread Eagle an hour before kick-off. I was beginning to feel at home.
The ground
Soon it was time to go to the ground, the Suncorp Stadium, which is a short walk from the pub. Despite a few previous visits to Brisbane I’d never been here, basically the home of Rugby League in Queensland. It’s here where the Brisbane Broncos call home as well as the Queensland State Of Origin League team. The local Super 14 Union team, the Reds, also play here as well as Union, League and Football internationals that are played in Brisbane.
It’s an impressive stadium in more ways than one. Firstly it’s a 52,500 capacity modern all seater stadium which wouldn’t look out of place in any of the top European leagues. Also, because its main purpose is Rugby League, it’s a rectangular shape and not oval like most of the other major stadia in Oz. As a result the seats are close to the action and so it feels like a Premiership football ground. All in all a bit different to my old beloved seat in the South Upper at Roots Hall.
What impresses me most about it however are the facilities and the ease of using them. From the quick and easy trip to the ticket office and straight forward entry to the ground onwards everything was a doddle. Getting a beer in particular is fantastic, a large open concourse runs round the edge of the pitch at the top of the lower tier. You jump from your seat, glancing at the game in action as you go, and straight to the bar. Quickly pick up a pint (or a round for your mates) and turn back towards the pitch and pay at the checkout – still within sight of the pitch. You then go back to your seat and consume said pints whilst watching the match. Yes, that’s right – whilst watching the match! At the football being treated like an adult drinking beer, from the moment you step inside the stadium to the final whistle if you like. OK, it’s mid-strength but if you’ve had a few before the game it’s enough to keep you ticking over nicely at the right level of mild drunkenness until you are back in the pub afterwards for the proper stuff. All very civilised.
The match
The standard of the football was OK, certainly either team would more than hold their own at our level and possibly even challenge in League One. The emphasis is definitely on passing, possession football and played at a slower level than the hurly burly of our league. This is probably a necessity in a league that plays through the Australian summer I suppose.
I’d say that sometimes they could do with being a bit more direct though, a few more balls into the box may have led to more goal scoring chances. The Roar are particularly guilty of this, with their bright orange kit and links to a Dutch heritage at the club you do wonder if they actually think they are the Netherlands. In reality they are not playing at that level and sometimes you need to get the ball up quicker to the big lump of a centre forward (who ironically is actually Dutch himself).
The Support
So, back to where we started – the fans. For this game I sat near the official supporters group the Orange Army and they are an eye-catching, colourful bunch. They are permitted to stand pretty much all the way through the game and don’t stop singing from start to finish. This seemed to be restricted to one bay of the stadium however and the rest of the ground didn’t come close to matching the exuberance of this small section of a huge stadium.
For me personally I found it a little too ‘organised’ for my style of support. That’s my personal preference however, I’ve expressed my views about The Blue Voice in a similar vein before. However both the Orange Army and Blue Voice cannot be faulted for their commitment in making noise at the football and getting behind their team – they have a number of things in common and it might not be a bad idea for the people at both organisations to get in touch with each other and swap ideas.
Next time I go I will sit with another section of the support – The Northern Element – who are a more English style of supporters. Not big on colours and organised TIFO style displays but, from what I can tell, still a very passionate supporters group. It will be interesting to compare the two.
Overall however I had a fantastic time and met some lovely people as I settle into life on the other side of the world. Nothing could ever replace Southend United for me, the club is such a huge part of my life and will remain in my heart forever but it’s nice to know I will still have days at the football to look forward to over here – even if it is so bloody hot!
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