A brief story about Australian football (or soccer, if you must) fans in the 1990s before the A-League existed because if you don’t know your history you repeat the same mistakes

Matthew Hall
12 min readDec 20, 2022
Spectators invade the pitch during an A-League match in Melbourne in 2022 but first… let’s go back 24 years and learn a bit of history…

Sydney/Zagreb 1999

It might be a muggy, wet, January Sunday afternoon in Sydney but the 30 or so Perth Glory fans, having traipsed across the continent to watch a game of soccer, are ecstatic. They’re tumbling down the back stairs of Parramatta Stadium in Sydney relieved that their team has escaped with a 0–0 draw against league leaders Sydney United. Laughing and singing, they edge their way towards an exit: “Let’s all have a disco… tra-la-la-la!

Just outside the exit another group gathers, like storm clouds. These boys are big. And they’re angry about something. To them, this traveling carnival of interloping good-time Western Australians has started to get very annoying.

They strike up their own song but it has a different beat to the Perth fans’ playful tune: “Fuck off, Glory! Fuck off, Glory!” The words are spat out and delivered with red-faced hard stares. A group of 30 or so angry men can make a lot of noise.

The Glory supporters stumble to a stop and suck in the sight. What was playful and teasing rivalry now takes a sinister twist. The already balmy atmosphere rises several degrees. The Sydney United boys, dressed in the red and white colours of their team, now take up a deep, guttural, mantra. The beat sways. There’s a pause between every syllable. A grunt for the last.

The chant goes: “CROW-AH-TZEE-UH! CROW-AH-TZEE-UH!

A tight pack forms and shuffles forward, slowly edging toward the Perth supporters, now trapped in a no-fans-land between the stadium fence and the straining faces of this angry chanting throng: “CROW-AH-TZEE-UH! CROW-AH-TZEE-UH!

“What are they chanting?” a bystander asks a nervous security guard.

“Croatia,” the security guard answers, now looking around for some assistance.

“Oh,” says the first guy, not quite satisfied with the answer.

The scene seems set to explode. A presenter from a well-known TV soccer program scuttles around the edge of the growing crowd of onlookers…

Matthew Hall

Paella correspondent for @guardianUS @smh and others: matthewhall.contently.com.