Wanderers fans I’ve met have been so passionate that it’s difficult to believe this is their very first season in the A-League. The fervour of their support base is normally associated with a team with a rich history and deep roots.
I have to admit I found the expressions of support uplifting, and a sign that the Wanderers phenomenon had transcended the divide traditional between football codes. I even enjoy watching them,along with ADP!
Adding the romantic notion that they could win the League at their first attempt, they have captured the imagination of sports fans to the point where they are a serious rival for other codes.
For the NRL, it is no longer a case of obsessing about AFL and the increasing nationalisation of the sport. The Wanderers now loom front and centre, and have been doing so for some time now.
For the AFL, they just want to get the A-League season over and done with so someone will talk about them. In the meantime, they’ll talk about Buddy Franklin.
But what is the nature of that support? Is it the opportunity to finally be able to support a team that represents a greater western area of Sydney? Everyone loves to be part of a club, or group, of like-minded individuals for many reasons which include enjoyment, comfort, self esteem and many others. This permeates every facet of our lives, from sport to religion to social groups and book clubs.
From the supporters I’ve met, there is no doubt genuine supporters make up a significant part of the Wanderers supporter base. But is there more to it? Is it just another excuse for people (mostly young men) to riot inside the perceived cocoon of safety offered by a large group?
Perhaps the Einstein College researchers have the answer when they pursue the idea that thousands of headers per year amongst amateur soccer players are likely to have suffered some sort of ‘mild traumatic brain injury and cognitive impairment’. The University of Texas-based study reaches a similar conclusion, suggesting ‘even subconcussive blows in soccer can result in cognitive function changes that are consistent with mild traumatic brain injury of the frontal lobes.’
Watching the video of the most recent incident certainly points in that general direction, and makes you wonder why other sports don’t seem to be interrupted so regularly by riotous, antisocial behaviour.
The NRL has its share of boofheads without question. But I like the idea that opposing jerseys can be worn by spectators within close proximity without anyone wondering if they’re in some sort of physical danger merely because they support a football team.