Carnival is coming to town, and again, like a kid who saved up all his pocket money to ride the log flume and tie a Bertie Beetle show bag, I couldn’t be more excited.
News broke last week that four English Premier League clubs are heading to Perth for a winter football festival at Optus Stadium, with Manchester United heading to WA along with Leeds United, Aston Villa, and Crystal Palace.
Understandably, the reaction was one of immediate excitement, with round-ball fans rubbing their hands happily at the thought of watching the Red Devils and co. Live.
The voice in the back of my mind tells me to temper my expectations – these are just a few friendlies for the season, after all, and we probably won’t see the stars for more than 45 minutes, if so.
But as a football fan, it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of four top clubs – all boasting passionate fan bases – traveling to WA.
Perth has always been the forgotten city when it came to major international acts touring Australia – and while that can still be the case in terms of concerts at times, the presence of Optus Stadium means a large number of sports teams are booking flights for the state previously known in circles of the eastern states like Wait Awhile.
Whether you think, these are just glorified pre-season kickabouts with an emphasis on marketing and growing the club’s global brand – and yes, there’s more than one element of that – but hey, it’s still great that they are in our town.
I was in the crowd when Chelsea and Manchester United came to Perth in 2018 and 2019 BC (before COVID), and I’ll be honest – the games hit the mark.
Yes, it was great to watch Cesc Fabregas and Jorginho hit the ball across the field against the Glory, and it was nice to see Marcus Rashford’s score, but they were pretty average games.
Ironically, as someone who often makes fun of the media hysteria surrounding sports and prefers to talk about the xs and os why something happens on the pitch, field, or track, I am most looking forward to seeing these clubs in be Perth. †
The games will be harmless fun, but I’m already looking forward to the carnival-like atmosphere that will envelop the city.
We saw the excitement last year when the AFL Grand Final came to Perth and how we embraced the Demons and Bulldogs, and I expect a similar reaction when one of the world’s biggest sports clubs lands in Perth alongside their fellow English Premier teams. League.
Australian football fans struggle when it comes to supporting foreign teams – we’re forced to watch our teams in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning, so the prospect of having them in our backyard, even for a pointless game, will be priceless.
I have friends who support United, Leeds, and Palace who can’t wait to see them play live again after years of watching them over a night of caffeine in front of a TV in a darkened room, their eyelids fighting to stay open.
With Steven Gerrard (Villa) and Patrick Vieira (Palace) directing two of the teams, we will host two legends of the game, two players themselves, and other EPL obsessives who have grown up while this will be one of the new United managers to be. Erik ten Hag’s first appearances ahead of the Red Devils.
Maverick coach Marcelo Bielsa may no longer be in charge of Leeds, but for the thousands of Aussies whose football loyalties are in Yorkshire, having spent their early 2000s watching Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka entertain the Ellen Road faithful, it becomes a thrill to have them back in WA, three years after their previous visit.
When the teams arrive, it will feel like a carnival, and I’m sure the clubs will have several opportunities for fans to see and meet their heroes outside of the games.
It won’t come close to a World Cup or an AFL Grand Final, but in a city ruled by the Sherrin, these friendlies will be a welcome change of pace.