This is a guest post by Perth Glory fan Chris Egan, who was at the game last week. Six years ago, Chris wrote this piece after seeing this game.
There was Mark Viduka, lines that stretched back to Clarendon Street for souvlakis and a game that continues to hold traction for a sad and dejected lover of Perth Glory.
The images and sounds were heightened, the same 'against modern football' signs I saw in '09 were back. The men behind them saw the purple scarf of my fellow Glory fan and expressed a somewhat passionate outrage for modern football, which is defined within our colours. Our club brought modern football and it remains a source of antagonism to wear our colours in their vicinity. 'What are you doing wearing a Glory scarf, they are not even playing'. As we were in the souvlaki line, Victory and Western Bulldogs fans mentioned the special attention that purple scarf had over their fellow 'modern' football compatriots.
Our name and club has not been forgotten, nor have we forgotten the Knights. Part of the problem of the 2001 elimination final at Sunshine is that it blocks the other remits of our rivalry. The signing of Vinko Buljubasic as the Glory's first full time player before the 96/97 season was a sign that new football as private enterprises had the cash to splash that a members run club couldn't compete with. There are many elements of the rivalry, not just those three fingers of Bobby Despotovski.
I still see the envy in my mates eyes when I can recount our dominance in Perth over Hellas, which stops it being a rivalry of any significance. However it remains the largest 'official' crowd to be played at Perth Oval in 1998 when 18,067 pack into the ground. There are credible murmurs that some games in the late 90s were pushing crowds into the 20-25,000. Even with a tantalising match up with Perth Glory to think of, this game had no other team I could barrack for. In a rivalry that goes back to December 1996 when the WA media excitedly declared the Glory 'WA's' team with a last minute goal against Melbourne Croatia or the outrage the Knights had over Tana calling Sunshine a 'cow paddock' before the last game of the 1996/97 season. I was South Melbourne for a night. It had nothing to do with anti-Croatian sentiment.
Now I have defined my support of South Melbourne as not about being anti-Croatian, the game was of top standard and reminded me of the old Freo derby. No longer the most dominant and biggest teams in town, but it still holds meaning. Beating the other team is more than just three points. This was about pride and history of being the biggest and best team in Melbourne a rivalry that etches along from the period of history. Four red cards, an all in punch up, reports of flares prior to the game. The clubs are pariahs of Australian football. Not modern or corporate enough for the Lowy machine that brought in the Glory in 1996.
I have seen a drastic transformation in culture of the 'old Classico'. The crowd on Friday night was double what I saw on a cold Sunday in June '09, the rivalry much more fierce. Indeed, as the second goal fired in off the post the man in the next row excitedly pronounced 'That is South Melbourne' to his younger colleagues as he leaped with excitement. Four words said in passion which define the resistance and power of the club in 2015. Words that were not heard of in '09 as the struggles of adjusting to a new league was heartfelt.
However, tonight in 2015 I see a club finding its identity, accepting its path forward and seeking out national representation in the FFA Cup. For myself, the six years have past and my club is still in crisis, still direction-less and still unable to process its movement away from the top dog status it used to have. The passion and culture of the 'old' Classico is drastically different to the feeling of hopelessness of our situation out west. An owner who doesn't care contrasts sharply with these community clubs that so many people still care about and if they had not they would no longer exist.
My fellow football fans, the six years have shown that the old Classico has grown in prestige and passion. The pessimism of the past has been driven to acceptance. For my club, the six years have driven more fans away, caused more anguish and it was only a few months ago our club had the blackest day in its history. We are now the problem child of modern football...