Sport is part of the fabric of Sydney, Australia, something that’s perhaps best illustrated by the multi-purpose ANZ Stadium—where five different sports are played—that was bristling with excitement as Juventus tackled the A-League All Stars this weekend.
Indeed, even in the days that preceded Juve’s friendly game with the Australian top flight’s finest, the streets of Sydney, plus collective mass of civilians and tourists alike were sprinkled with Bianconeri colors.
The Italian champions continued their globetrotting pre-season tour with a stop Down Under, and their visit has been met with an unavoidably fervent levels anticipation in the city. Throughout Sydney there have been banners erected, previews on television stations and chatter aplenty ahead of what was always going to be an enticing 90 minutes.
Much like in America, soccer has to battle with a plethora of different and more established sports to capture the attentions of the Australian public. But after being in Sydney and witnessing first-hand the hyperbole that has accompanied the arrival of the Bianconeri, there’s little to suggest that the sports’ popularity will do nothing but ascend in Australia.
And any lingering doubts were succinctly dispelled upon arrival at Sydney Olympic Park train station. The ANZ Stadium was emblazoned with the three colors of the Italian flag, as swathes of match-goers flocked towards the stadium, mainly donning the legendary black and white stripes of Juventus, but dotted around were various other strips from a host of different nations.
It was a genuine festival of soccer outside the stadium. Italian tunes drifted out of bars, children scampered around mimicking their favorite Juve players, and a former one too.
That’s because much of the focus pre-game was surrounding Alessandro del Piero. The former Juventus legend has been playing his football for Sydney FC since he left Turin two years ago, and somewhat fittingly, he was to play his final game in Australian soccer against his former employers.
Both sets of players welcomed the Bianconeri and Azzuri legend onto the pitch pre-match, clearly unanimously appreciative of the influence and significance of not only his glittering career for both Juventus and Italy, but his short spell in Australian soccer too:
Although the atmosphere pre-match was relaxed, as soon as the game kicked off it became wholly apparent that this would be a competitive affair. New Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri spoke pre-match about how he was looking for a big test for his team—who are two weeks away from the start of their Serie A season—and the A-League players assembled looked happy to oblige.