The team has been embraced by the fans | (Credit: Eric Berry)
It has been a unique and amazing weekend for Western Sydney Wanderers. Highs and lows, in close proximity to each other, all of which have only strengthened the bonds that tie together the Wanderers Family – and made me a Very Happy Wanderer.
It started in Campbelltown, home of our W-League team. Having not made the finals in our inaugural season (finishing 6th out of 8 teams) this would be our final match of the short W-League season. It may also have been the final game for our Captain, the legendary former Matilda Sarah Walsh, her career being curtailed by chronic knee trouble. Lastly, but by no means least, it was the return W-League Sydney Derby. Sydney FC Women’s Team needed a win for a chance at playing in the finals.
Did I mention that several of our players used to play for Sydney FC until the Wanderers came into being? No love lost here, rest assured.
Most W-League games attract a small crowd, often filled with family and friends of the players. 500 is considered good, even if there’s not a lot of noise most of the time. This has changed. On this past Saturday the RBB came to town. Instead of a hundred or two and a polite clap, our women walked out to a crowd of around 2,000 – including a noisy, passionate 200-strong mob from the RBB.
The flag-waving, dancing, chanting and singing started before kick-off and didn’t stop. When we went a goal behind, the volume actually went up. The only pause was during the half-time break for some extra bottles of water to quench parched throats.
The big moment, however, came when our Swedish International Louise “Lollo” Fors slammed home a second-half penalty to equalise at 2-2, right in front of the RBB. The world went wild. The players sprinted behind the goal and celebrated wildly with the fans.
The RBB went stratospheric. My ears rang from the cacophony of insane footballing passion that more than doubled in volume. Even though we eventually went down 2-3 to Sydney, nobody really cared. The drumming, chanting and flag-waving continued and, after obligatory handshakes with the other team, our WanderWomen sprinted over to the RBB and indulged in a melee of hugs, high-fives, cheering, waving and dancing.
The players wanted their photos taken with the supporters, and the supporters cheered and waved scarves and flags until the last photo was taken and the frazzled security team ushered everyone out.
The scenes were like nothing else. Sarah Walsh later said “Was that an A-League or W-League match? [The] RBB made my year. The atmosphere today was the best I have ever experienced in Australia”.
Fors, who will play for Liverpool FC Ladies in the UK later this year, added “I will never forget this game. What a support from the RBB! Shows that Wanderers is more than a club. It would never happen in Sweden!”
Women’s football has seen a new benchmark set for active, passionate fan support. Long may it continue and grow. It’s nothing less than the women’s game deserves!