Derby cements itself on sporting calandar

The Melbourne derby has cemented its status as Australian football’s marquee fixture and inscribed itself on the must-see list of sports aficionados across the country.

Melbourne has long been regarded as the sports capital of Australia. And for good reason: some of the country-s marquee sporting events call the city home, from the Formula One Grand Prix and AFL Grand Final to the Melbourne Cup and Boxing Day Test.

You can now add the Melbourne Derby to the list, which has cemented its status as Australian football-s marquee fixture and inscribed itself on the must-see list of sports aficionados in Melbourne and across the country.

Like any other major sporting event in Melbourne, there-s a certain buzz that wafts through the air during the lead-up to the game. Come match day, train platforms are abundant with colours of the Derby, so too the watering holes surrounding the match venue for the occasion.

It-s a testament to the nature in which the iconic fixture, despite its infancy, has captured the imagination of Melbourne-s sports-mad public. Families are divided in loyalty, so too are friends. And when the A-League fixture is announced, out goes a group text message to save the dates.

As the rivalry grows, so too has the media exposure, and while coverage of the fixture still pales in contrast to its AFL equivalents, which suffocates the public via a four-pronged attack — TV, radio, print and online — it-s attracted a passionate core of supporters who converge three times a year to create an atmosphere unlike any other in the city.

In derbies past, theatregoers would be common in attendance; the type of fan sampling the A-League for the first time to see what all the fuss has been about. Nine derbies later, it would appear the crux of the crowd constitutes a large portion of the devoted — and financially committed — fan.

My stroll to Etihad Stadium on Saturday night confirmed the observation, with an overwhelming majority of fans displaying their commitment to their side of Melbourne by fashioning their respective club-s merchandise line. And on occasion, a glimpse of the ultimate pledge would cut through the crowd: a club tattoo inked on the skin of the die-hard fan.

For all the passion, drama and excitement the night produced, sadly it-s being remembered for the actions of a mindless few, who thought it wise to tear up 170 seats at Etihad Stadium in a misguided attempt at displaying passion for their respective team and sport.

The ramification of leaving their brains at home is akin to awarding the opposition a needless penalty in the final minute of stoppage time. And just like Jonatan Germano-s clumsy foul on Marcos Flores, the entire incident was unacceptable, unnecessary and totally avoidable.

If the game is to be free of such bashing in the media, fans must take it upon themselves to put the sport-s best interests first. Clubs and the FFA need to employ a zero tolerance policy and throw the book at these misguided fools, but fans also must work together to rid the active areas of such people who evidently have zero respect for the club, the league, the sport and the true fans.

The voices condemning the actions have rightfully been loud, and they-ve left a sour aftertaste despite the main course being a sports lover-s delight: end-to-end action, an electric atmosphere, a tad of controversy and almost some very late drama.

The clubs will come down hard on the perpetrators, and so they should. But as we criticise the few clowns who-ve created this circus, we should also be heaping praise on the 100,000-plus fans that have attended a Melbourne Derby this season and helped make it one of the best shows on the Australian sports calendar.