Normally in this article three talking points would be outlined to preview the game ahead, with some key player battles discussed, and some photos dispersed throughout. No standard match preview lies ahead; these are far from regular times in the A-League, and an irregular article is required.
The past few weeks have given much cause to consider what it means to be a fan of a football club in Australia - what's clearer than ever, is that it's got nothing to do with the owners or management of the club. Underlining that fact was a decision made yesterday - one day before our game against Central Coast Mariners. Seemingly unprovoked by the APL, the powers that be at Melbourne City have decided the active bay will not only be closed (as many expected) but that active fans will be barred from attending our upcoming two home matches. No seats will be temporarily re-allocated, fans will be just straight up turned away.
Our hopes of overturning the APL's notoriously selfish decision through league-wide peaceful protests were dashed last week by a particularly nasty element of Melbourne Victory's active support. In the wake of this debacle, many City fans have expressed a newly strengthened sense of unity with the players and the badge across forums, social media, and on our very own Talking City podcast. It's little surprise that images of our goalkeeper's face dripping blood as a result of our crosstown rivals' thuggery would galvanise us as a fanbase, but how the masses will react to this latest decision will be unpredictable.
Also seen across fan community groups this week is the widely held - and unprompted -condemnation of anyone who throws flares at a game. While last week's outrage has lingered, and emotions have been running high due to the APL's actions, it was hardly going to kick off again at 5:30pm on a scorching hot day against the Central Coast Mariners. What is most disappointing about this decision is the apparent lack of belief in the ability of the community of supporters to self-police. It's clear that the intended effect of this two-match sanction is to encourage crowds to dissuade fellow members from using flares otherwise we collectively face punishment again.
This heavy-handed measure has been delivered without giving the City Terrace a chance to prove that they can self-regulate. This kind of treatment is only likely to result in some of our most passionate fans being lost to the club, as those who organically bring colour and voice to our home stadium become disaffected and disenchanted. Fan sentiments during the last week have shown us that most supporters have done the right thing, and can persuade wrongdoers in our community to follow suit.
Yours truly will not be able to attend, and so there will be no match review out of solidarity with my fellow active supporters and the leadership of the City Terrace.
Whatever the result is on the field today, the result off the pitch is a mark against the club's management. I only hope our readers and listeners don't lose their love of the club too. We must band together as supporters of our great team, because we don't support the suits, we support one another in the stands, and on the field.