Sunday, January 24, 2010
Phoenix Lose the Longest Derby
Wellington Phoenix went down 2-0 to Perth, in what may euphemistically be called 'the Longest Derby'.
In a league dominated by teams from Australia's Eastern Seaboard, Wellington and Perth are the geographically distant outsiders. It somehow seems right to think of Wellington v. Perth as a derby of a different kind. It is their very uncommonness that they have in common, like the disparite dogmas of Glasgow Rangers and Celtic, which unites the fierce rivals in an uncomfortable bond.
The Wellington to Perth road trip must be one of the longest in domestic football, and makes a sweet mockery out of the cosy bonhomie of, say, the Maltese or Andorran football leagues. Perhaps only Russia has a domestic football match that requires a 10,000+ Kilometre round trip. (Happy to be corrected in the comments section below.)
Eugene Dadi had a baffling, meandering, sort of homecoming. Fouled from the first minute, he was goaded into picking up a soft early yellow and was lucky not to see red mere minutes later. It seemed like he was hell bent on reacquainting his studs with the shins of every one of his ex-team mates. The strategy failed, the Perth Glory's covert fouling was much more effective in disrupting Dadi's flow and getting under his skin; Paul Ifill also copped a bit of attention, repeatedly being spilled over by the Glory game plan of harassment and niggle. It was not a pretty game, but Perth's two first half goals were at least quality finishes, even if the Nix defence was generous in its absentia.
In the second half Dadi's horror show return to the Indian Oceanside reached its nadir with a pathetic 73rd minute penalty, limply rolled to the keeper, after a clownish run up.
In what was a forgettable night for the Nix; feeble up front and phantoms at the back, perhaps the thing I'd most like to blot from the record is the terrible 'Come Play' commemorative jerseys.
The sentiment, at least, was fantastic. This was the 'Come Play' Round, where each team wore a special jersey to promote Australia's World Cup bid, and each player's top will be auctioned off for charity afterwards. Although the Phoenix are a NZ based team the potential spin off for NZ football from Australia hosting the World Cup could be huge.
But the shirts themselves were a throw back to the eighties- hypercolour tied dyed messes with cutesy little Kangaroos on them. Gok Wan should stick to shopping malls for his makeovers, and leave the football shirts alone.
Ironically the 'Come Play' round, which was meant to draw attention to the A-League as a supporting factor in Australia's World Cup Bid, was defined by ill discipline and confrontation. Plenty of bookings, poor tackles and silly fouls. North Queensland's All White Jeremy Brockie had his ankle snapped in a rash challenge by Brisbane Roar's Michael Zullo, so much for transtasman goodwill and cooperation in the name of the World Cup. Brockie's dream of appearing in a World Cup is probably as busted as his leg, while Zullo blithely played on, hoping to be in contention. for the Socceroos' squad. Even 'God' wasn't in a charitable mood; North Queensland's Robbie Fowler sulked in the stands after being benched.
The Central Coast v. Gold Coast game, a true derby at least in geographical terms if not history, was typical of the round. It was feisty, marred by fouls and dust ups, but still managed to be a snore fest.(I literally fell asleep watching it.) The casual observer might think that the invitation to come play was confused about what code it was referring to.
If this was meant to be the shop window for the beautiful game in Australia, then those tie-dyed t-shirts should be ripped into rags, and used to wipe the window clean.