Desperate times call for desperate measures.
It was not that long ago that the Football Federation of Australia refused to recognise The Iron Ore Cup, a tin trophy that was put up for grabs when Gold Coast United played Perth Glory. The cup reflecting the mining business that the owners of each club were involved in. At the time one felt it was more about them being in the limelight rather than their football teams.
At the time the FFA stated that they were not too keen on any side competitions that would detract from the main prize, the Championship of the A-League; a very understandable reaction.
What a difference a few years makes as now it appears that they have sanctioned the most ridiculous cup in world football, “The Long Distance Derby Cup.” This is a sideshow for fixtures when the Perth Glory meet Wellington Phoenix.
First of all what an awful name for a Cup. It is bound to be condemned to becoming a trivia question, if anyone actually gives a damn about it.
One feels for the two Captains of each side who have had to appear to at least to applaud such a concept obviously dreamt up by some marketing freshman.
Glory captain Richard Garcia is quoted as saying “The distance between our two teams is something that needs to be honoured and celebrated in the competition and I think it’s fantastic both teams have put their heads together and have come up with something like this the players and the fans can get excited about”. Really? Do you honestly think fans are going to get excited about such a thing? Fans care about the league table not sideshow cups with absolutely no meaning.
Having played for Hull City and Colchester United Garcia would know what a real derby is all about, as Hull fans would not tolerate a loss to Scunthorpe United or Grimsby Town, just as U’s fans would not accept a loss to Southend.
Phoenix Captain Andrew Durante appears to have missed the point of a derby in the words attributed to him, “In the tradition of derbies those clubs are close together and this will be a derby with a difference. We might be over 5000km apart but there is a bit of a bond between us and Glory because of it” Derbies are not about “bonds” between clubs, in fact it is the complete opposite. Derbies are games in which fans will categorically not accept defeat. Games where a loss hurts far more than a loss against any other team. A Game where the loss at the weekend can affect your next week.
As stated before you cannot manufacture derbies, they evolve. How else in AFL do you account for West Coast Eagles v Essendon having so much feeling? In England Chelsea fans hate Leicester City, a rivalry born out of a game in the early 1970’s when Chelsea’s run for promotion to the old Division One was halted by a 1-0 defeat at Filbert Street, a game in which Chelsea missed several penalties. Who would have predicted such a rivalry would last? Then you have the rivalry that exists between Norwich City and Wolverhampton Wanderers. This grew out of one tackle, a tackle made by Australian Kevin Muscat playing for Wolves at the time. Muscat’s challenge saw Norwich’s Craig Bellamy stretchered off with a broken leg. Wolves fans may have let sleeping dogs lie but to Norwich fans this still rankles and a win must be achieved over Wolves.
Of course in some cases there may never be that pent up rivalry between two clubs no matter how regularly teams play each other.
Either the FFA or Perth Glory are hell bent on developing a derby, if they were not we would not have to endure the embarrassing so called “Desert Derby” when they play Adelaide United. The name supposedly reflecting the desert between the two clubs, yet that could be used for pretty much any team in Australia playing against Perth Glory. This latest manufactured derby is quite simply ludicrous. The fact that the teams are playing for a cup and this is meant to give the game extra excitement shows a complete lack of understanding as to how fans think.
Winning one game against another team means nothing. It will be embarrassing for the captain of either team to be presented the cup post game as they know it means nothing, the goal is to lift the A-League Championship.
Hopefully this trophy will get lost on the journey to or from Wellington at some stage and never be seen again, and whoever came up with the idea is also lost to the game for good. Football does not need such meaningless cups and manufactured rivalries, that is the beauty of the game.
Certainly the game doesn’t, but as one wag explained on social media, ‘at least it increases the chance of winning some silverware.’