Sydney v Melbourne rivalry alive and well

by Teo Pellizzeri on Aug 25, 2011

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The Kewell signing has certainly confirmed one thing: that city rivalry is alive and well.

Not between Melbourne Victory and Heart, but the city rivalry that the A-League initially intended to create. Melbourne and Sydney.

I do not begrudge any journalist who pins their colours to the wall and states that they will be scrutinising Harry Kewell closely, which we now know that the Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Cockerill will inevitably be doing.

But Cockerill is sorely mistaken if he believes that criticism of Kewell will be received as a critique of the man alone, and not the town he now represents.

A quick read of the forum or Twitter, or either team’s official Facebook page, would tell you that Harry is now Melbourne’s man.

And Victory fans are more than happy to let Sydney know that ‘‘their’’ star — who should have been, let’s be honest, the marquee signing for a new Western Sydney franchise about to launch in the A-League — will now play for the biggest fish in the pond.

If the rest of the country wasn’t already aware, Victorians do have a chip on their shoulder about New South Wales and particularly Sydney.

And initially the A-League harnessed that rivalry perfectly.

Be it the hype around ‘‘Bling FC’’, the excused salary cap violations, wimping out at the 50,333 crowd game in 2006 and giving the anti-soccer media another opening to bash, or the scandalous robbery of the 2009/10 title, Melbourne fans already had no shortage of reasons to give it with both barrels to Sydney FC.

Now Kewell’s choice of Melbourne, ahead of Sydney FC and in spite of the FFA if you believe the Melbourne conspiracy theorists, gives the rivalry a near-eternal edge.

If Kewell is struck by injuries, is petulant or short with the media or out of line in any other way, everyone expects the knockers will be coming.

But even the most carefully worded and directed critique at Kewell the footballer or Kewell the man will now be interpreted as criticism of Melbourne, and the Victory in turn.

Cockerill’s SMH piece was not seen as Kewell being critiqued by a journalist that covers the Socceroos, but a Melbourne Victory player being critiqued by a Sydney FC homer.

Yes, that’s irrational, but it’s that passion that also means Melbourne fans actually turn up to games.

With an online army of bloggers and fans, and a guerilla army of sophisticated trolls, Victory’s support will stand by Kewell when the criticism comes.

It’s just a shame that Michael Cockerill isn’t already on Twitter to get his first taste of the passion out there that fuels this great city rivalry.