Since the qualifying matches of the 1956 Olympic Games, football has enjoyed a long history at the Olympic Park precinct. As the only FIFA recognised soccer stadium in Australia, Olympic Park hosted a number of international football matches. In total, Australia played 34 internationals (including six World Cup Qualifiers) at Olympic Park for 11 wins, 11 draws and 12 losses. Teams such as Chelsea, Everton and other top European clubs also took on the Aussies and the Vics. Meanwhile, various state based and local competitions, as well as the National Soccer League, utilised the field for decades.
Then, with the advent of the A-League in 2005, Melbourne Victory exploded onto the sporting scene in front of capacity crowds at Olympic Park Stadium. Born from a vision to form one iconic Melbourne club, Victory proudly wears the distinctively Victorian colours of navy and white. Melbourne's attacking style has since earned them two A-League titles, the most recent in 2009.
Whilst Victory outgrew Olympic Park Stadium after a couple seasons, the club maintained an administrative presence at Melbourne Park and continued to utilise Olympic Park and Goschs Paddock as a training base. Victory also has a women's team in the W-League, which occasionally play their matches at Olympic Park.
Victory has again made their presence well and truly felt at the precinct, taking up residence at AAMI Park, adjacent to their original home ground.
Furthermore, 2010 heralded a new Melbourne A-League club, Melbourne Heart (now Melbourne City FC). Also calling the new 30,000 capacity stadium home, Heart's local derbies with Victory have added a new dimension to Victorian football. Indeed, their first-up 2-1 win over Victory on 8 October 2010, witnessed by a Victorian inter-club record crowd of 25,897 (see images below), marks the start of a beautiful rivalry.
Mid-way through the off-season AAMI Park was fortunate to host a friendly between Glasgow Celtic and Melbourne Victory, a highly anticipated match that didn't fail to deliver a tremendous atmosphere with super passionate fans.
The 2011/12 A-League season generated great interest with Victory's signing of Australian international star Harry Kewell, alas the club's on-field fortunes did not improve as did Melbourne Heart's. When the two clubs played eachother in early February the millionth patron was celebrated with a 360 degree, 10 billion pixel FanCam image.
After a long lay off, international football returned to the precinct on 29 February when the Socceroos defeated Saudi Arabia in a World Cup Qualifier in front of 24,124. In wet conditions the Aussies were 2-1 down late in proceedings, only to raise the roof with three goals in quick succession.
Photos courtesy of Sandra Davis.