Richard Kitzbichler recalls his Victory days

With the Hyundai A-League about to kick off season 10, Goal tracked down Melbourne Victory cult hero Richard Kitzbichler in Austria to ask him about the club’s early days.

A four-match winning streak in the second month of the inaugural 2005-06 season, including their famous 5-0 demolition of Sydney FC at Olympic Park, took Victory to the top in the Hyundai A-League standings at the midway point of the campaign.

But Victory only picked up 11 points from the last 13 matches to slump to seventh and finish five points outside the top four.

Kitzbichler, who scored five times that season, including Victory’s maiden goal at home, said it was hard to watch a team they had demolished – Sydney – claim the inaugural championship but the Austrian attacking midfielder took some joy from Melbourne’s subsequent success a year later.

“To be honest, we were the most talented team, I don’t know why exactly it didn’t work out,” claims Kitzbichler, speaking to Goal from his base in Austria.

“Of course, the next year they became champions and I think it was deserved because we were really – also in the first season – a really good team. We were league leaders halfway through the season and then we had a little bit of bad luck because we had a lot of chances in all the games.

“I can remember we had a streak of three or four home games where we weren’t able to score. From then on it was a little bit of a bad mood [in the squad] but we weren’t that bad, as the place we finished in the league [indicated].”

Kitzbichler had already left when Victory won the title in 2006-07 but quickly became a favourite around the terraces of Olympic Park in his one year with the club – both because of a chant incorporating his name into the well-known song ‘Tequila’ by The Champs and his regular goals.

While Archie Thompson scored Victory’s first goal in the Hyundai A-League, Kitzbichler was the first to hit the back of the net in a home game.

In the 11th minute of Melbourne’s second-round encounter versus Perth Glory, Kristian Sarkies’ free-kick was partially cleared by the visitors’ defence, only for Kitzbichler to strike the ball at full tilt, smashing it through a crowd of players into the net.

“I remember it well because I’ve got a really nice picture from the club, which is still on the wall in my home office, so I can see it everyday,” he says.

“So these are really good memories because I liked the stadium a lot, it was an old stadium with a lot of history…I liked the atmosphere at Olympic Park. I can remember also the seagulls and everything during the warm-up.”

After winning the supporters player of the year award at Victory, Kitzbichler somewhat surprisingly returned to his homeland after just one season, signing with Red Bull Salzburg.

The contract was long-term and included an offer of an off-field position after his career was finished.

Now 40, Kitzbichler has been Salzburg’s video analyst for the past five years and says it is the ideal position for him.

“I was already interested in working in computers, it’s what I do in [my] leisure [time] as well. So I can combine these two things that I really like to do,” he reveals.

“The start was with the coach Huub Stevens, who was in Salzburg five years ago, who came from the German Bundesliga, who was also very interested in doing a lot of things with video and I was just finishing my career, and they asked me if I can imagine working in this area and I took my chance.”

Kitzbichler still keeps tabs on the Hyundai A-League, however, and is proud to have played a key role in its birth.

“No one really knew how the league would be or how the audience and everything would be because it was all really new,” he says.

“But we played the pre-season cup and already had 3,000 to 4,000 people [at games] and then when the league started it sort of exploded. I can remember for every home match we had at least an audience of about 15,000, so it was a really great atmosphere.”

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