V for Victoria
The narratives of both Victorian clubs strive to be different, but you only have to look at each club’s emerging talents to discover which is closer aligned with the home state.
When then FFA CEO John O-Neill flew into Melbourne back in 2004 to assess the Melbourne bids for the brand new A-League, he noted how competitive the Melbourne sporting landscape was.
That was just with AFL in the picture.
The code had dominated the state for decades, “but if you are an agile competitor, I believe [football] can make a real statement in this city that loves its sport so much,” he was quoted as saying at the time.
Cleverly, Victory set itself up as the football club for Victoria, donning the iconic "big V" across its shirt in similar fashion to Victoria-s AFL state of origin Guernsey.
You can therefore appreciate how challenging the task is for Melbourne Heart, desperately trying to claim its own slice of the local pie through heavy community involvement, a continental brand of football and a desire to develop youth.
The narratives of both clubs strive to be different, but you only have to take a peep at each club-s emerging talents to discover which of the two are closer aligned with the home state.
It may come as a surprise to learn that Victorian youngsters in Victory-s first team outnumber those at Heart two to one.
In total, six players from Victory herald from Victoria, with Matthew Foschini (22), Petar Franjic (20), Leigh Broxham (24), Diogo Ferreira (23), Andrew Nabbout (19) and Theo Markelis (20) making up the list, compared with Heart-s trio of Nick Kalmar (25), Mate Dugandzic (23) and Aziz Behich (21) — the latter two former Victory players — leaving little doubt as to which club boasts a higher representation of the state.
It was fitting, then, that a Victorian, 19-year-old Nabbout, would rise so emphatically to land the first psychological blow against a bitter Melbourne rival, Sydney FC, on Saturday night, setting the wheels in motion for Victory-s epic 3-2 comeback win with a curling gem from the edge of the 18-yard box.
His second — the match-winner — would have had Kevin Muscat pumping the air with his fist with a little extra oomph.
On the whole, it-s difficult to fault Melbourne Heart-s off-field efforts and player recruiting. Yet, if it is to encourage aspiring local talent and the passion ignited by state vs. state rivalry, there should be a greater push to recruit the best local talents to give substance to the term "community club". And if anything, it will give Heart stronger ties with the state.
It-s a lead that all A-League clubs should strive to follow to cement their respective places in the community and give those young tackers playing in the local competition something to aspire to; the dream of playing for the club they supported as a youngster.
Real Madrid had Raul, Roma has Francesco Totti and Liverpool has Steven Gerrard. In time, hopefully A-League clubs can share a similar tale.
For the time being at least, it-s hard to argue that the "V" draped across the Victory shirt stands for anything other than a symbol of Victoria.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of FFA or the Hyundai A-League.