Why my love for City comes from the Heart

IT all began on a freezing winter’s evening 11 years ago – for me, and for the club I would fall in love with.

Sunday’s much-anticipated Grand Final between Melbourne City and Sydney FC promises to be a fitting conclusion to one of the most competitive seasons in the competition’s 16-year history.

For City, my team, it offers a reward for the investment and commitment the club’s owners have put in since taking over in 2014.

But for me there’s the added magic of thinking back to that very first game for a brand new club in 2010, a friendly against a local team where a group of us stood and wondered what the future would hold.

That same club, called Melbourne Heart back then, now has the chance to secure a place on the league honour roll and claim a maiden A-League Championship, 11 years since their admission into the competition.

Back then, Heart faced the challenging task of winning the hearts and minds of a city dominated by the juggernaut that was Melbourne Victory.

Our rivals had five seasons, three Grand Finals, two Championships and average attendance figures of more than 20,000 fans, so we knew it would be a long journey.

As an 11-year-old Essendon fan who could memorise the Bombers’ entire 2005 roster, season one of the A-League was greeted with minimal enthusiasm (my football consumption was dominated by mid-week Champions League mornings on SBS and my support of Manchester United). John Aloisi’s penalty and the Socceroos’ subsequent German odyssey changed all that.

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John Aloisi

I went to Victory games sporadically but when Heart entered the league in 2010, I felt compelled to support the new kids on the block and was drawn to the appeal of being there right from the beginning of the club’s inception.

While I was never the biggest fan of the Heart name, the club’s red and white striped jerseys, its desire to play attacking football and early signings (including Socceroos penalty hero Aloisi) won me over.

I attended that first Heart game on 2 July 2010, while the eyes of the world were on the World Cup in South Africa. A freezing winter night failed to dampen my enthusiasm as the A-League new boys defeated local NPL side Oakleigh Cannons 5-2 thanks to a hat-trick from Dutch striker Gerald Sibon.

Just over a month later, the real action commenced when Heart hosted the Central Coast Mariners in the opening game of the 2010/11 season and the inaugural competitive fixture at AAMI Park. An underwhelming 1-0 defeat followed in front of an encouraging 11,050 crowd.

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The club's first A-League fixture came against the Mariners in Round 1 of the 2020/11 campaign

The early years were not exactly an instant success. But I found myself attending home games in the Yarraside active end and riding the waves of emotions, the highs and the lows, that come with giving your loyalty to a team.

That’s what will make success on Sunday all the sweeter. While the Heart period of the club’s history was less successful than the times that have followed as Melbourne City, it was integral in creating the foundational support structure and emotional attachment which resonates with many of the club’s supporters to this day.

For City’s faithful, Sunday’s occasion represents an opportunity to not only celebrate the now but to also take a trip down memory lane and reflect on their fandom for the club and remember all the moments that led up to this one in the years gone by.

For me, it represents the making of many great memories in the stands of AAMI Park with family, friends, and complete strangers.

The joy, the heartache, the promise, the disappointment, the fun, the expectation and perhaps finally – the fulfilment of a dream 11 years in the making. 

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Match details 

Melbourne City v Sydney FC
Sunday, June 27 2021
Venue: AAMI Park
Kick-off: 5.05pm AEST
Broadcast: FOX Sports 505
Stream: MyFootball Live App, LIVE and FREE on Kayo Freebies!
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