Wednesday, 1 February 2012

So, Why Do I Do It???

I've spoken before about my passion as a fan of a football team, and how this has affected me personally throughout my life. How my moods are usually in direct correlation with my teams fortunes that week and how generally the course my life takes reflects on how well my particular teams are travelling. Well over the past few weeks I have travelled from Newcastle to Gold Coast, Gosford, Melbourne and Brisbane to support the Jets, and at these games I usually see the same few Jets fans milling about in the away fans area. In fact last week in Brisbane I met this young bloke who looked about 20, who I had seen at other away games in the past, who told me he goes to every game! Now I go to a lot but I tend to stick to all the East coast games. This guy said he works all week and on weekends he spends his money travelling the country following his team. I was so impressed by this blokes dedication to the club he loves.

So this got me thinking as to the monetary cost involved for me to follow my team, the Newcastle Jets, to the extent that I have chosen.
Opening night of A League, Jets v Adelaide, 26 Aug 2005.

 Since that very first A League game back on August 26, 2005. When the Jets went down at home to Adelaide United 1-0, I have only missed 2 home fixtures out of 73 games played not including this current season. One of those was in season 3 when Steely Dan played at Bimbagen Estate, a band I had waited to see for over 20 years. The other was in season 6 when I was trapped in the Queensland floods whilst trying to get to the airport to return to Newcastle for a derby game against the Mariners. In the first couple of seasons I mainly stuck to home games plus trips to Central Coast and Sydney, but from season 3 on I started branching out to the Melbourne and Queensland games too. Season 5 of the A League, 2009/2010 also incorporated the Asian Champions League for the first time for the Newcastle Jets. A home and away series between clubs from China, South Korea and Japan was scheduled before the commencement of season 5. This is when I decided to take advantage of the situation and use the ACL as an excuse to travel. So in March 2009 I was on a plane to Beijing  with my cousin Kyel and my friend Natalie. The experience of being one of the few supporters in gold at the Workers Stadium filled with over 30,000 screaming Beijing Guoan supporters decked in green was an experience I'll never forget, at least until dementia sets in! On the way to the ground we couldn't go 10 metres without being stopped by smiling Beijing fans wanting a photo with us.
On the way to Workers Stadium, Beijing
 On a bitterly cold night we cheered and yelled ourselves hoarse (or at least I did) but it was to no avail as we were beaten soundly 2-0. With the first goal coming from a former Newcastle United player, Ryan Griffiths, who is now back playing for the Jets currently. As we trudged out of the stadium, me solemnly blowing my recently purchased Vuvuzela in a low sad tone, we were commiserated by all the surrounding Beijing fans, in a show of sportsmanship that was fantastic to be a part of. I still treasure my Beijing Guoan shirt from that trip.
Moments before kick off.

As I could only really afford 2 of the 3 away matches, I chose to stay home for the match in Nagoya, Japan and instead go to South Korea for the 3rd away game in May 2009. The match was to be played in Ulsan, the home of Hyundai heavy industries. Again my cousin Kyel came along for the trip and this time I had the honour of being able to sit in as co-commentator with ABC Newcastle's Aaron Kearney. Having media passes gave us unprecedented access to a spectacular stadium, similar to Suncorp Stadium in size and capacity. Also the experience of staying in a city like Ulsan where if it wasn't for the Football, I would never have dreamed of visiting in my life, even if I did travel to South Korea in future, Ulsan is hardly a known tourist destination. Here we stayed in the Hyundai Hotel, which was next door to the Hyundai Hospital and Hyundai University. Over the road was the Ulsan equivalent to David Jones, The Hyundai Department Store, and a 24 hour McDonalds that delivered via motor scooter. We got to experience South Korean nightlife, food and culture, and the Jets beat Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I  1-0 in an almost empty stadium.
A typical street in Ulsan, South Korea.

Approx 1,800 at the 55,000 seated Ulsan Stadium on a Tuesday
After all 6 home and away fixtures were completed the Jets had won through to the next stage of the competition. This meant another trip for them to South Korea, this time to Pohang. If they were to win that match they would go on to play a team from Uzbekistan. I decided as I had already been to Korea a month before I'd hold off and if they won I would look into going to Uzbekistan. Unfortunately they failed to beat Pohang and the dream trip to Bunyodkor was over.

After my 2 Asian adventures I decided I was going to keep travelling to watch my team. The A League season kicked off in August and between then and December I had been to matches in Gosford, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney twice. Then in January 2010 I moved to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Six days after arriving in Queensland I flew back to Newcastle to watch the Jets defeat Melbourne Victory 3-2. The following week I had driven down to Brisbane, a week later on the 24th January was back in Newcastle for a home game, flew to Newcastle then drove to Gosford for a match on the 6th February that was postponed an hour before kick off due to rain. I then had to fly back to Queensland at 6am the following morning and open the Pizza joint I owned at 11am that day. I then flew back for the final home game of the season on the 12th February before driving to the Gold Coast the following week to watch them play in a semi final. All up that season the cost of Airfare, Accommodation, fuel, airport parking and my season ticket for home games cost a grand total of $11,799.00, the bulk of which of course was on the 2 overseas trips.

Season 6 of the A League, 2010/2011 I spent the entire year living on the Sunshine Coast. As I stated earlier, the only home game I missed that season was a 2-0 loss to Central Coast as I was stuck at Maroochydore after the great Queensland floods. That season I also travelled to games in Melbourne twice, Sydney once, Gosford, Brisbane and Gold Coast. The grand total on the same expenses as the previous season was $3,717.00. None of those figures include spending money, food and drink etc. So as you can see being a travelling supporter in a National Competition can be a very expensive hobby. On the other hand though I have had the pleasure of experiencing other cultures, and travel to great Australian cities like Melbourne and Brisbane regularly. (Yes I think Brisbane is great, particularly West End!) I've been able to live out a childhood dream and commentate on a match broadcast live to air, meet wonderful people within the club and league heirachy as well as fans of all teams, and watch a game I love in some of the best stadiums in Australia and Asia.

If I wasn't a fan I think my life would be pretty dull......That's why I do it!
Commentating with Aaron Kearney on the Jets ACL match v Ulsan Korea

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