Nothing to play for but pride as Beijing Guoan make the LONG trip to Australia to face off against the Brisbane Roar tonight. My absolute favorite part of the ACL experience this season has been the chance to chat and meet with fans from across Asia. This time around, representing the Roar we have Roon, a regular contributor on the Roar Forum and an all-around great guy. We enjoyed a few pints together in Beijing and while I wish I was now in Australia to enjoy some more down there, we’ll have to settle for an online discussion. Warning: He’s very talkative!
Roon: Things are great down under! Looking forward to saying “Nimen hao!” to the travelling Guoan supporters!
: Since we last met, things have changed a lot for Brisbane Roar. While you still sit on the same amount of points you had after leaving Beijing, the team has since been crowned champions of Australia and saw their manager leave the club, thoughts?
Roon: Well, we did come away from our Korean leg with a point; after a tough campaign, we are again locked with Guoan on all stats going into the final game. For the back-to-back A-League Champions, this game is as much the last game of the season as the first game of the pre-season. Ange Postecoglou headed back home to Melbourne to manage that city’s major team and your 2010 group opponent, Victory. Assistant coach Rado Vidisic, who has been at Brisbane under all three mangers since season one 2005, stepped up to the top job in a relatively smooth transition, overseeing the honourable loss away to Tokyo FC. We’ve managed to hang on to most of our roster – only the lanky Bahraini defender Mohamed Adnan, who caught your attention in the Beijing game, is not locked in for 2012/3. He’ll line up tomorrow night, we’re playing for pride now!
: I’m sure you have to be disappointed with the Roar’s ACL form, what went wrong?
Roon: It’s funny, but oddly enough, not all of us are too devastated with the results from our maiden foray into Asia. We took our first nervous steps at Gongti against a very good opponent in Guoan, bringing a point home. We hit a red-hot, in-form Tokyo FC that managed to play two near-perfect games to get all six points from us. We were unlucky to eventually share points with a very solid Ulsan away and even unluckier to lose at home. With the way our domestic league is scheduled – our finals during the ACL group stages – what didn’t go wrong was our championship defence. We managed to balance our domestic and international seasons in a way that won us the silverware at home, gave us a sneak peek at continental club football and yet another crack at the ACL next season. Who knew, back in March, that Group F was going to be the toughest draw in East Asia!
: With the “Big Donkey” (ie Reinaldo) seeing a straight red in the match against Ulsan, he won’t be making the trip down under, I’m sure Brisbane fans will be sad not to see him?
Roon: Yes! I imagine most Roar fans would be disappointed at Reinaldo copping a suspension and missing the trip ‘home’– five years of service to Brisbane before leaving with good wishes and blessings from the family club. He’s always had fans in a bit of a conundrum, though – we loved him for his heart and passion, but he frustrated the hell out of us on the pitch at times. He did have a hand in a memorable night back in 2010 that helped kick off our long, succesful run: against Adelaide, Reinaldo had put us up 1-0 early with a goal he celebrated by taking his shirt off to reveal a ‘sports bra’ – holding his GPS in place. The ref gave him a yellow for that. After being hacked down in the box, he was shown a second yellow for dissent and marched off. Instead of folding, his team-mates rallied to score 3 in three minutes. That match was one of the turning points for the club. It was nice for us travelling Roar support to give him a cheer when he took the field at Gongti and for him to come over and give us a clap after the game.
: Guoan’s pretty much sending a reserve side to Brisbane, though they put up a fight against Ulsan, will one of these sides finally get a win?
Roon: And settle it once and for all! That was a good effort considering the cattle Pacheco sent out. We are down in playing stocks as well –Captain Matt Smith is out after coming down with a serious infection from a cut in the final. One of the New Zealand players for Perth must have bitten him; Smith got septicaemia – Smeltz copped 50-plus stitches. Vice-captain, veteran Stefanutto is out with a quad and Henriques suffered a hamstring in training.
Make sure your boys are heavily strapped – Brisbane Stadium has seen a lot of football this past week. Friday night there were three games of rugby league, including a top-flight double header. That wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for an ACL-type rugby union competition game on Sunday turning it into a cow paddock. Unfortunately it’s the price we pay for sharing top facilities with two major football codes. We’re hoping to end the season on a high, and welcome our ‘new’ coach back home with a win!
: I’m not making the trip to Brisbane, so let me live vicariously through your words, what would the whole matchday experience be like on Wednesday night?
Roon: Travelling Guoan fans will love it – they’ll feel right on top of the action in our three-tiered, all-seater, true rectangular stadium. Like a large, downtown, covered version of Tianjin stadium, seating 52000 and filling it for a final, it’ll unfortunately be pretty empty, expecting six to ten thousand for this mid-week dead rubber; mostly die hard members and our ‘ultras’, The Den. Sitting behind the northern goals, they’ll be singing heartily for much of the game – our visitors will be pleasantly surprised with the atmosphere! I hope the Beijing crew come up and say hello – it’s not like Japan or Korea, or even other parts of China (we don’t bite, or fight).
Being a work/school night, we’ll try and sneak off work early to get a bite to eat and a couple of beers before the game. Caxton Street is the renowned bar street running from city to stadium. The Den will be furiously drinking pints at a few of these pubs and bars from five til seven. Roar supporters have earned a fair bit of goodwill in Asia this ACL and will be happy to keep the good times rolling, welcoming our guests and encouraging mingling with the locals at the stadium –and at the bars before and after the game. You’ll be safe walking in your green to and from the stadium without escort and same at the stadium. You’ll see security and police keeping an eye on things but not expecting trouble. You’ll be able to shout ‘sha bi” all night – we might join in too, if any of the guys in green takes a dive or hacks a Roar player. Feel free to wear your colours into one of the pubs the Roar fans are at – you might get a request to swap a scarf or shirt! Beers cost about 50RMB for a good pint outside and the same for a large plastic cup of local inside the stadium.
: As probably the first club to make it into the 2013 Asian Champions League, how excited are you about another year of Asian football?
Roon: Well, technically the second club. Our old foe, the Central Coast Mariners, won the premiership this year and pipped us by two points for that honour. They went out in straight sets in the finals series that roar won for a second year running. It’s the first time an A-League club has gone back-to-back, and with that, another crack at the ACL. For those of us that travelled to an away fixture, it was a fantastic experience. We’ve made plenty of friends in East Asian football with our attractive brand of football, fair play and friendly supporters. I got to know and meet the team, sharing some good times in the Northern Capital and would love to draw Beijing again! For those that attended a home ACL tie, we saw some cracking football and were able to match it with some of the best clubs in the continent.
The ACL concept will only grow with time and I hope we’re part of it in years to come. Brisbane Roar can learn from its
first foray too. The team needs depth to cope with the demands of playing finals football and ACL at the same time. ACL
is no place for timid play; you’ve got to take your chances – just look at Adelaide United – they failed domestically yet sailed through the ACL group stage. Good Asian teams will punish you for the same mistakes and defensive lapses that go unpunished at the A-League level. The club has to offer discounted ACL membership add-ons and triple packages to encourage crowds to the difficult mid-week games. And for heaven’s sake, can we ditch those ugly ACL strips – there was no need or requirement to change kit for this campaign. Good luck Guoan; meet you in 2013!
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