Carlton SC, a club with an intention to appeal to greater Melbourne, (ie, all Australians) is what some people believe is the only future for the game.
Behind the goals for this match, and most other matches ever played this season and the three seasons prior, is the heart of Carlton's support. Draped in Carlton and Australian banners, this support group is all Carlton have, ever did have. Through thick and thin, it's been the same people. Amongst the colour and passion, was the Eureka Stockade flag. A powerful symbol of the Australian working class standing up for its rights, the century old symbol, the Southern Cross on the midnight blue background was the united flag of Australian gold miners (and descendents of all national backgrounds).
Today Soccer Australia's representative took exception to the display of the flag, labelling it 'non-Australian'. Now either, Soccer Australia's representative of Epping Stadium was an staunch Monarchist, or simply an uneducated fool. Supporters were threatened by security and police reluctantly under the instruction of Soccer Australia, that the club would be fined $5000, a figure later inflated to $7500.
Meanwhile a Brazilian flag was on full display on the halfway line, in the grandstand. Only after fierce protests, did security eventually remove the Brazilian flag.
It was a lovely day at Epping, a nice touch from nature to inspire Carlton's players to put their shylock owner's refusal to pay players issue behind them and turn up to and play for the club, for soccer in Melbourne, for the national league.
Northern Spirit had come seeking a draw. The bookies had Carlton a hot favourite for this match, and Graham Arnold was cautious of the desperation at Carlton and was more than happy to get a result, and they did. Andrew 'Stabber' Marth put Carlton in front, after a scrap in front of the Northern Spirit goal. In fact it was a complete scrappy first half.
In the second half, much of the same really, Carlton old boy, Alex Moriera, equalised for Spirit. Carlton had a few chances of winning the game. Archie Thompson hit the bar, and Henderson pulled of a miraculous save late in the match to save a point for Spirit. Standing on the left hand post, Henderson some how managed to glide accross the goal, and just touch out a downward header to the right hand post. Quite extraordinary.
The ground announcer, whose performance was certainly not hampered by the off-field drama claimed Carlton's next home game against Perth Glory would be at either Bob Jane Stadium or Optus Oval. A fresh hint of optimism as most seemed prepared to accept that this may have been Carlton's last NSL match.
I was fortunate enough to participate in a halftime penalty shoot-out comp, and cooly converted 3 from 3 spot-kicks. Victoria may well be the big victim when it comes to having clubs cut from the league this season (3 out of 4), but we have the strongest grassroots in Australia. Our pitches are immaculate. Epping Stadium surface is by far the best surface anywhere in the world. The pitch has a look of plastic/carpet about it, and had to rip out the blades of grass to believe it was real.