So one thing happens when you travel a lot, are very outgoing and love people, you meet lots of new people and enjoy lots of adventures. How I came to watch my first soccer game in Sydney was no exception. First some background and then the story.
Ten years ago while traveling throughout Europe, I met two Aussie dudes in Munich, Germany. I meant to stay there for a day but ended up staying 5, and drinking more beer then I ever thought I could. We kept in touch over the years and I ended up visiting both of them for the holidays right after I arrived in Australia. There will be a separate blog post about all that later. This is relevant because one of the guys, Andrew, has a brother, Stu, who I met and stayed with when Andrew picked me up in Newcastle. When I told Stu I was here on a work visa and looking for a job in IT sales he told me he had a buddy, Mike, who works in IT and may be able to help. Mike is also British, remember this part.
Soon after I got back to Sydney after the holidays I contacted Mike. I told him I knew Stu and that I was looking for a job. At first I think he was thinking who the hell is this guy? Once he realized I was not some nut job calling him he told me he would be glad to help. I said it would be cool to meet up for a beer sometime. He contacted me soon after and invited me to a pub for some beers before a soccer game. I assumed it was them playing on a club team or something. I assumed wrong.
This pub, Cricketers Arms, was in Surry Hills, not far from where I am staying in Newtown but not close enough to walk. So I called an Uber. A nice, older Australian man picked me up. This was interesting because of all the Uber rides I have taken in Sydney, he was the first Aussie driver I had. Once we got near Surry Hills we came upon some kind of demonstration. There was a crowd as big as you could believe and police everywhere. Police on horses, police on foot and police in cars. Traffic was not moving. I asked how far the bar was from where we were, he told me not far, just follow the road and turn right at the end. I wish it was that easy.
I got out of the car and approached the mob. I was not sure if it was a political demonstration or what. Many of them were wearing the same color jersey so I figured it was just a sports thing. After talking to some people, I learned they were there representing the Western Sydney Wanderers. They are part of the A-League, a professional soccer league in Australia. They were thousands of them. They were yelling out cheers and they had drummers, it was pretty intense. I finally got past them and started on my towards the pub. I was having an issue with my phone and data was not working.
After 20 minutes of walking down the road, I started asking people if they knew where the Cricketers Arms was. No one really knew. Finally some guy told me it was pretty far up the road. After another 10 minutes, the mob caught up with me. I asked a group of Wanderers fans if they knew where it was, thankfully they did. They told me to follow them. They asked where I was from and when I said Alaska they were like wtf are you doing here? I asked about the big march and the police. The one guy said, “Man we are from western Sydney, they don’t like the non-whites here too much.” He then told me they were playing the Sydney FC, their big rival, and added they are all yuppies! At this point I thought maybe this was the game Mike was going to. I wondered what team he was for.
I finally arrived at the pub after 30 minutes of walking. Mike was there with his friends, all awesome people. Mike confirmed they were going to the game and they were all Sydney FC fans. I told them about the Western Sydney fans I met and what they told me. Apparently there is some class issues between the people in western Sydney and the people in the main city. I really wanted to go to the game but they said it was sold out. One of Mike’s friends gave me a club card and said it might work. We walked to the stadium, which holds 45,000 people! I tried to get in with the card but it did not work. I told them I would try to get a ticket and meet them inside. I tried to buy a ticket but they were in fact sold out. I went to the club card office and tried to hustle my way in, unsuccessfully. They did tell me if I buy a club membership for $150 I could get into this game and the next 6. Sold!
I went back to the stadium and got in. My phone had died so I was not optimistic I would find them. I spent 10 minutes searching the general admission area, this was like finding a needle in a haystack. All of a sudden I felt a hand on my shoulder, it was Mike! We found the rest of the group and had a great time watching the game. Unfortunately the score ended up being 0-0. The fans were loud and intense, it was quite a first soccer experience. My club card and Sydney FC scarf should arrive in the mail soon. So I guess now I am a Sydney FC fan. Looking forward to the next 6 games.
Oh, after the game Mike and I went to some bars in Surry Hills. Correction, tried to go to some bars. We were greeted by very large bouncers at all of them who continually refused us entry because we looked drunk. We did have some beers but were not drunk. We finally got into the fourth place by acting real cool.