G'day mate! Melbourne is my stop for this week as I work my way around the land of Oz.
The city of Melbourne is a sprawling, happening metropolis in the state of Victoria. It is considered the sporting centre of Australia. Firstly, you have the Melbourne Cricket Ground (known locally as 'The MCG') which is arguably the most well known of the country's test venues for The Ashes. Then there are 2 football teams, Melbourne Heart and Melbourne Victory, both equally abysmal. There's a rugby league team and a rugby union team. The Rod Laver Tennis Centre, where the Australian Open is held in January, also sits in Melbourne.
|'Down Under' in Melbourne. Get it? I'm too funny ;)|
And then you have AFL, or the Australian Football League. This is known to most of you as 'Aussie Rules' and, to describe it in as succinct a manner as possible, it's essentially a cross between rugby, Gaelic football and cage fighting. With the game taking place on a cricket field(?), Aussie Rules Football is an utterly brutal sport where players beat the living daylights out of each other in the hope of drop kicking a ball between some sticks. It's the most followed sport in Australia, and just here in Melbourne alone, there are nine teams all kicking the crap out of each other for fun and money. The season doesn't start until March next year so I won't get to witness any of this neanderthal-bashing up close, and that's unfortunate because it's the only sport here that I'm interested in learning more about.
|Just a regular Aussie Rules football game. "Play on" says the ref.|
Being 11 hours ahead of the UK, Sean Jenkinson (no relation to Carl) and I had the immense pleasure of waking up at 05:30am in order to get into town to catch the 6:45am kickoff at The Imperial in downtown Melbourne. The Imperial isn't the official pub for the Arsenal Australia members, but it's the only one that's open early enough to accommodate a live Champions League viewing (for the weekend we will be at AA Melbourne's regular home, the Celtic Club). There were about six of us watching the Arsenal match against Marseille, and we were all thrilled with the result. It was especially nice to see Jack Wilshere get on the scoresheet with his first ever brace for Arsenal (and also the fastest Champions League goal scored by an Englishman).
|Not bad for 6am.|
That result means we have one foot in the next round of the Champions League, but as everybody is well aware, the work isn't finished with yet. It's the first time in quite a few seasons that we enter the final group game of the Champions League with the qualifying teams still undecided. It means we have to go to Napoli with the intent of winning, and that will test our mettle next month when fixture congestion starts to come into play once more. Let's hope the Ultras behave themselves.