United in Sydney   Leave a comment

Saturday, 20 July, 2013

Usually I don’t bother with football friendlies. I’ve been to a few in my time and they’re usually pretty tame affairs with players on both sides just going through the motions. So when it was announced, late last year, that Manchester United were coming to Sydney to play an Australian A League All Stars at the 85 thousand seat capacity ANZ Stadium, it didn’t register on my radar. However, as the game approached and I’ve realised that this was an opportunity not to be missed, I decided to get hold of a ticket and travel up to watch them on the second leg of their five match pre- season tour of Asia/Australasia.

Mind you it wasn’t easy getting hold of a ticket! Apparently the whole game was sold out within twenty minutes of the tickets being released. I did check the Ticketek website the other day and they did have some of sale, but they were up near the $200 mark and I wasn’t going to pay that! So I turned to eBay and Gumtree, most of the tickets on eBay seemed to be the higher priced category and I assumed that they were for corporate boxes etc. on Gumtree they seemed to be better priced and I soon found one at $60, which I contacted the seller by text message giving all my contacts etc. I waited for a few hours and he contacted me back, by text, telling me that he had just finished work and that the ticket was still for sale. ‘Great’ I texted back and not being the pushy type, I asked if I could contact him so that we could arrange to meet up and do the deal. A perfectly reasonable request I thought, but after four hours waiting for a reply, I sent another text asking if the ticket was still for sale! Still no reply by the morning, tosser!

So I returned to Gumtree looking for another ticket. .. Wow, look at that! Single ticket for $50 (face value). I was on the phone quick as lightning and was soon chatting to a nice young man, Nigel, who told me that he was travelling up from Melbourne, with his girlfriend, for the weekend to watch the game. He had purchased three tickets, but another friend had dropped out and he just wanted the face value of the ticket. I think he got quite excited when I told him that I was a genuine Manchester United fan from Manchester.

So this morning, I was up early (no mean feat after a Happy Hour at work yesterday) and on the road to Barbara and Lawrence’s. Arrived just after midday to find that Lauren had already taken the dogs for a walk, so I suggested lunch by the sea somewhere? However, as I only had 4/5 hours to play with before I was off to the match, we decided to nip into Padstow and try a newly opened Thai restaurant that Barbara had spotted on her travels. This would kill two birds with one stone, as I could check out the special events bus route and timetable that starts from there whist I was there. The lunch time special meal was great value and of excellent quality. After we had returned home and recovered from the stuffing we had had, I drove the car back down to Padstow, parked up and walked over to the Bus Stop where the Special Event Bus. I was a bit worried as I seemed to be the only one waiting for it to turn up. However, after a few minutes a steady trickle of United fans (conspicuous by their varied collection of team colours, both old and new!) started arriving at the bus stop. I stuck up in conversation with a few of them in the queue and on the journey into the Olympic Park area.

The ANZ Stadium was originally built as the main athletics venue for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. The stadium itself is located in the middle of the Olympic Park complex which also includes other large venues for both sporting and cultural events. There seems to be a large and varied web of transport links, from the large car parks on the outskirts of the park, through the train station in the middle and on to the massive bus terminal that we were deposited onto at the end of the journey. From here, it was a pleasant stroll across the huge pedestrian concourse up to Gate H, where I had arranged to meet Nigel from Melbourne in order to complete the deal with the ticket. Once inside, I was impressed again by the wide open spaces under the stadium in which I could buy a souvenir or two, have a beer, eat some food and watch a live band on a stage!

I love it when I enter an arena that I’ve never been to before, walking up the steps into the main bowl always gives me goose bumps and the experience at the ANZ didn’t disappoint.  As I had arrived early, the stadium was only half full at most, so I had plenty of time to find my seat and then go exploring. Back home, if I ever went to a match at OT, most people would rock up at the last possible moment, watch the match and then bugger off as soon as the final whistle is blown (if not before!). Tonight, I would say that the ground was already three quarters full, a good hour before the scheduled kick off. And so when the United players came out to do their warm-up routines, the stadium erupted into thunderous applause. Call me cynical, but I found it slightly amusing at sight of cheering a players every move during the warm-up.

The two teams were welcomed onto the pitch by a full house (85,000) and once all the introductions were done, the game finally got underway with a full strength United team pressing from the start. There were a couple of faces I didn’t recognise in the United attack, but they soon started to impress me with their speed and flare culminating in a couple of early chances, which the crowd loved. Sure enough, after about ten minutes play United scored their first goal to a massive roar from the crowd. Not long after this, they scored another and I was thinking that this could get embarrassing. However, the A League all Stars started to find their feet and went close a couple of time before scoring themselves just before the half time whistle. The second half started as the first did and United were soon 4 – 1 up with a couple of nice goals from the attack. On the hour mark, a ripple of excitement spread through the stadium and looking over towards the bench in soon became apparent what all the fuss was about,  Robin Van Persie  was warming up and was introduced into the fray not long after.  United were running rampant now, unsurprising as the A League players are still in the middle of their close season and sure enough the crowd got what it wanted and PVP scored a goal near the end of the game. So, a good workout for United, plenty of goals for the fans and a couple of new players to watch out for in the upcoming season, not bad night all-round I would say

The trip home was a breeze compared to what I’ve experienced at OT in the past, with loads of buses waiting at the terminal ready to whisk us off though the traffic and drops me off back at the car. When I got back, Barbara and Lawrence told me that they had watched the game (Not bad for a City fan!) and were amazed that so many people had turned for the game.

Posted July 20, 2013 by yermandownunder in Observations, Out and about, Travels

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