Watching A-League A La Sydneysider

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Courtesy of Eny Wulandari

I hate to say this, but Westeners, particularly Sydneysiders, taught me a lot to be a good football spectator on November 30, 2013. Actually, my first purpose of going to Sydney was watching Ale playing for Sydney FC on that day. I thought this could be the first and the last chance for me to see him being on the pitch, scoring goals, etc. So, the fact that I did take a picture with him after a regular training one day prior to that game was really a bonus. Getting his signature for my jersey was an extra gift. What’s the use of getting his picture and signature without watching him playing on the field? I could follow him around the world to get his picture or signature but witness his skills on the pitch as a professional player would be a very priceless experience. Ever.

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the ticket

It should be easy for me to reach Allianz Stadium on that sunny Saturday afternoon from Central Station. Just one bus ride and I could save lots of money. But reality turned out to be so messy. So, I was planning to visit Featherdale Wildlife Park before going to the stadium but I spent a lot of time updating news (yep, I was still working even when I was there). Then, I went to Kingsford to seek for Indonesian food. These two activities took up all the day. When I wanted to visit the zoo, the remaining time was very limited. I still went to the Central Station though and underwent about one hour trip via train up to the Blacktown station. All I needed was taking one bus from the station to the park. But when I reached the Blacktown station the time was almost 4 p.m while the zoo would be closed one hour later. So, I canceled my plan to meet penguins at the zoo then took a train ride back at the Central Station. I wasted US$10 for this fruitless visit.

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The time was almost 5 p.m. when I returned to the Central Station. In order not to get late to the stadium, I took a cab. Almost US$12 for this short trip. If you go to Sydney, try to avoid taking a taxi as this public transportation is soooo expensive, especially at nights.

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one of the welcoming statues in front of the stadium

Allianz Stadium is quite small if compared to Bung Karno Stadium. There were bunch of spectators waiting outside the stadium complex when I reached the place. The ticket box wasn’t opened yet. I was wearing Ale’s number 10 Sydney FC jersey to appreciate his new club despite the fact I prefer to wear his black-and-white jersey. I went inside the football club’s official merchandise store that was located outside the stadium. I didn’t buy any of the stuff sold in the store, including Ale original jersey because it is so pricey.. even Ale hat is so expensive..

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I was wondering if I could enter the stadium with all stuff that I was taking. I was bringing food that I had bought from one restaurant in Kingsford. Then I was carrying tripod along with a pocket camera. Then, I put a lot of goods into a backpack I was taking all the way when I was in Sydney. With my hands full of stuff, I was doubtful if authorities allowed me to take them all in. Recent experiences when I watched Arsenal and Chelsea Tour in Jakarta caused me to get prepared if they confiscated my goods, especially the food.

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To my surprise, the officials were so kind. When the gate was opened, I did not line up to get into the stadium. They only took a glance at my bag and did not ask anything related with the food or the camera. That was so wonderful! After I was permitted to get into the complex, I straightly went to the gate where which I would watch the match. And again, I was amazed with their professionalism. Unlike in Jakarta where there are officials who will check your tickets, all I need to do is get my ticked scanned via an automatic machine. Only two officers who supervised the process in the gate. They didn’t check the ticket. And they were so kind and trusted me a lot. My ticket was successfully scanned but as the guy in front of me had trouble passing through the machine my ticket couldn’t be scanned for the second time. I was a bit panick then I explained to the officer that my ticket was valid. Again, I was so happy that he trusted me then asked me to take another route without facing any questions regarding the ticket. Thanks God….

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As I entered the field complex, I was mesmerized. I always love being in a stadium. There is always a sense of magic each time I go inside a stadium, especially football field. The stadium is clean, neat and nice. How happy I was in there. I could not imagine if one day I can make it to the Juventus stadium. That will be so fantastic! As I arrived, few spectators were in the stadium. The match against Newcastle Jets would start in about one hour or so but the stadium was still a bit empty. Then, one by one came in.

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I was fascinated with what I saw on that afternoon. Soccer in Australia, especially in Sydney, is indeed a family entertainment. In front of my row was a family consists of some boys who continuously supported the home team. They were accompanied by some adults and conveniently eating food during the game. Older spectators brought hot tea or burger while watching the match. They really enjoyed the match and watched their words. They did complaints for the referee’s decisions but did not act violently. Even the Cove, the home team’s hardliners, did manage their behavior very well. I really love this kind of sport entertainment where all spectators, regardless their age, can enjoy the game without being afraid of getting involved in vandalism. This is a long way to go for Indonesian football as there are still many fans act brutally when their team is defeated. Making soccer as a safe and friendly entertainment place for children is still far away. This fact leads me to understand on why Ale loves taking Sydney FC’s offer: involving children in soccer program.

IMG_0233Seat 19, Row K, Gate K

Although I met Ale before the game, I was overjoyed when he first entered the pitch for a quick warming-up session. I couldn’t tell you how happy I was at that time for eventually being able to see him playing. This had been my long, very long dream when he was still at Juventus. And just like what I saw during the training, he preferred to do some relaxations all by himself while his teammates practiced together. Again, I learned Ale is an individualist. And I believe, this is for his own perfection. He admits this attitude in his book ‘Playing On.’ As the warming up session was over, he and other Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets players went to the changing room while the giant board introduced the player names of the clubs. It felt a bit funny when the giant board showed Ale’s full name along with the name of hometown: Alessandro Del Piero, San Vendemiano (to be exact is Saccon di San Vendemiano). How he loves his hometown!

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The first half of the match belonged to the guest team. Newcastle Jets aggressively attacked the home team, leaving Sydney FC players defended their home net. So, I did not see Ale attacking the guest team let alone showing his tongue out after scoring goals. He practically walked around the field while occasionally going down to protect the defense. He looked stressfull during the match, probably because Sydney FC did not perform well in the first half. Plus, there were some unnecessary errors that gave chances for Newcastle Jets to score goals. I also saw Ale looked disappointed with the referee’s decisions. He rarely got a chance to tear down Newcastle Jets’ net.

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The best yet the worst part occurred when the game entered its 40th minute as Ale got a good ball. Just when he was about to organize an attack, he got injured! DAMN! At first, I tought he was fine but after a few minutes he went to his coach. He asked for a replacement. SHIT! It was an anticlimax for my visit: watching him playing for about 40 minutes with almost no dangerous attack from the captain. Anyway, the home team won 2-0.

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I was so sad. I kept thinking how unfortunate I was for not seeing him scoring goals. This sorrow lasted for two days when I failed to see him for the second time on Monday. But well… no one would know, not even me or Ale, that he would get injured on that day. That had been a destiny. Until now, I still wish I can have one more chance to see him again playing in the pitch. But I am still grateful. I really am.

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Ale was pulled out from the pitch due to injury

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