Meet "The Cove" at Sydney FC
Goal Click has visited the Southern Hemisphere for the first time and brings you photos from Australia. The photos were taken by Chris Round, a professional photographer from Sydney. His photos give a view from the heart of the stands of Sydney FC, who play in the top division of Australian professional football - the A-League.
Chris spent time up close with the famous Sydney FC supporters group "The Cove" to show the passion of the Sydney fans and the intense atmosphere they create at a match. We spoke to Chris about why he chose "The Cove", the fans he photographed and the recent rise of football in Australia.
Why did you choose The Cove? Who are they?
The Cove is the northern end of Sydney FC’s home ground, the Allianz Stadium in Moore Park. It is home to the passionate local Sydney FC fans that go there religiously week in, week out, like the terraces of the past in England. The A-League has been running for about a decade now - I chose The Cove because it is a well known group and is a good sign of how developed Australian professional football is now. The A-League has been quite successful and it has got a good core group of supporters in a number of different cities across Australia.
Australian football started with different ethnic groups - Italians, Greeks, Croatians - all in disparate groups and teams. But since Frank Lowy founded the A-League the fanbase is more multicultural and mixed, and city based. They have all collaborated together and it’s quite a lively atmosphere now.
So the fans are from all different background and nationalities?
Yes, that’s the beauty of it. With so many different backgrounds they have certainly adopted some of the continental European style of supporting. Big flags like you see in Italy and Serie A, loudhailers and flares that are more Eastern European. But the police are pretty strict on that!
Is The Cove famous in the A-League and held up as one of the better fanbases?
Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory have similar fan bases, as does the newer club Western Sydney Wanderers. But The Cove is one of the oldest fan clubs and very well known. If you’re part of the Cove, you’re blood brothers! You can get tickets any time in all the other parts of the Stadium, but The Cove is for the die-hards.
What are your favourite shots?
I wanted to capture the guy with the loudhailer and some of the flags being waved. The Cove is quite a passionate bunch, and these photos capture everything for me.
I was very happy with the photo of the guy in mid song with the loudhailer. It has the flare of the floodlights beaming back and it was an overcast day. A lot of my landscape work is with overcast skies. He is a pretty interesting character. He looks like he’s going to beat the crap out of anyone, but he’s actually quite funny and he has got some ironic songs, even when Sydney FC had a goal scored against them. He actually had his wife with him!
The Del Piero shirt demonstrates the internationalisation of football. It was a good moment. The fans had their arms round each other and everyone was swinging side-to-side singing songs. Del Piero played a few seasons ago and he helped Sydney FC reach the latter stages of the A-League. Each year the League tries to attract players in the twilight of their career that can add a bit of glamour to the A-League and bring a bit of knowledge to the younger players.
What were you trying to show with the photos and what was the wider meaning behind your shots?
I was trying to show how passionate a certain section of Australian society is for football. In a country that is more associated with Rugby League, Rugby Union, Australian Rules and cricket, Australia really is developing as a footballing nation and has passion behind it.
What interests me is that rugby games have quite passive audiences, however good the game is. Football is the only one that comes close to AFL. One of these football games, even if it is just a few thousand turning up for a game against one of the lesser clubs, it is still a really good atmosphere and you can really feel it. That’s what I wanted to capture. Knowing all the football codes here, it’s the most enjoyable atmosphere.
Why is football becoming more important for Australians and Sydneysiders?
The pockets of cultural following are still great. There is a lot of European background with third generation immigrants into Australia. Their children and grandchildren are now watching and the younger audience is bringing their parents and family friends. It is certainly more of a family atmosphere, although not so much in The Cove! The football at grassroots and local level is drawing people to go and watch the A-League a bit more.
There is a groundswell, and the achievements of the Australian team also helps. They have done a good job on the international stage. Australians know Australia is not going to win the World Cup right now. But this year after the Asian Cup, which Australia won on home soil of course, there was a massive increase in registrations at a local level – that was pretty big. It’s not just Sydneysiders, it’s across the country.
Can football overtake the other sports in Australia?
Yes football is on the rise. My son plays in the local under 8s team. You go to any local pitches on a Saturday and they are packed with under 5s, 6s, 7s and they are all playing small sided football. There are FFA directives of how to coach young players so they get a touch of the ball and get used to different positions. It’s growing in popularity immensely.
It will probably be Rugby Union and Rugby League that get muscled out rather than AFL. AFL is a local invention; it has got a strong base in Victoria. Rugby League is going to suffer the most under the advance of football.