Behind the Original Rivalry – Part 2: The Red Side

Picture: Adelaideunited.com.au

“The first ever Adelaide United game I attended was on November 28, 2003 against Wollongong Wolves but I was a chubby 9-year-old at the time with other things on my mind, like video games and Star Wars,” said Ellis Gelios, Adelaide United fan and founder of beloved fan channel, Purebred Reds.

“The first match I attended when I was at an age where I could really appreciate the atmosphere and spectacle was actually on the 4th of August in 2006 against the New Zealand Knights in a pre-season match which we won 1-0.

“It was off the back of the momentum the game was riding in Australia after the Socceroos’ extraordinary efforts in Germany.

“Little did I know that since that August night, Adelaide United would become a considerably large part of my life.

“Since that occasion, I can count the amount of home matches I’ve missed on one hand.”

Six months on from that first encounter, Ellis, like many reds fans, sat through 90 minutes of pain when United were beaten 6-0 in the A-League grand final at the hands of their fiercest rival, Melbourne Victory.

For Gelios, though, the naivety of youth shielded him from how damaging the defeat was to many other United fans.

From his perspective, the real pain kicked in two years later when the two sides faced off again at the final hurdle.  

“I think because of the fact that I was still an innocent kid in early 2007, oddly, I was able to stomach the Grand Final defeat,” he said.

“I was definitely numb and shattered but I was still new to the life of being a football tragic and was thankful for what had been an incredible season in any case.

“The most pain I can remember enduring came two years later, in February of 2009.

“It had been such an epic time to support Adelaide United as we forayed into Asia and conquered the might of Al-Ahly at the Club World Cup.

“I remember being so convinced that we were going to go to Melbourne and deliver a surprising upset and take home the A-League, especially after the way we’d beaten Brisbane Roar so soundly here the week before.

“Losing to Victory on that night, thanks to that undeserved Tom Pondeljak effort; probably one of the jammiest to ever decide a Grand Final, well and truly depressed me.”

Two grand final contests in three years proved a bold starting point for the biggest rivalry the league has ever known, but is there more to the Original Rivalry than just on-field battles and press conference stoushes?

Gellios thinks so, as do many United fans who make sure that of all games, this is the one they get to.

United average just shy of 11,000 fans per home game since the inception of the A-League, but when Victory come to town that number skyrockets to well over 14,000

“It’s a rivalry that derives from a very old and traditional sporting hatred,” he said.

“It’s really just a match that means so much more to Adelaide United fans than any other fixture.

“I’ve seen so many incredible nights at Coopers Stadium between the two teams over the years.

“When we pumped them 4-2 back in 2012, I could swear I had never seen so much electricity in the air at a sporting event ever in my life and I’m well-travelled.

“I don’t think the average Adelaide fan will ever bring themselves to lessen their bitterness towards Melbourne Victory.”

Gelios and his Uncle Con Tsakiris, who was part of the first ever Adelaide United supporters group, ‘The Stand’
Picture: Ellis Gelios

While Melbourne play-off in hotly contested local derbies, for Adelaide, the Victory game is the climax of any season.

The expansion of the A-League in the Eastern states has seen Victorian sides such as Melbourne City (née Heart) and Western United come into the picture but for Gelios, the Original Rivalry stands on it’s own above all other rivalries, regardless of the coverage they may receive.

“It doesn’t matter who’s in form and who isn’t or which club is more desperate to win,” he said.  

“I would argue objectively that this match has been the most eventful in the history of the A-league.

“People seem to get caught up easily in the Sydney and Melbourne derbies, primarily because they’re derbies and Fox Sports gives these fixtures the most hype.

“People also forget they’ve only been around since 2010 whereas Adelaide United vs. Melbourne Victory had already seen five emotionally charged years before any derby fixture came around in the A-league.

“It just seems that every season we get twists and turns when these two face off and that really is a special prospect.”

Though Melbourne has the upper hand in the wins column over United, Reds fans have not been starved of landmark moments in the history of the rivalry.

Having been to almost every instalment at Coopers stadium, Gelios has seen a few special moments in his time and reflected on them with The Inner Sanctum.

“There’s honestly so many that you can’t really ask me for a standalone one, however, I’m tempted to go with what is probably a less popular one from the fan archives,” he said.

“I’ll take you back to when Bruce Kamau scored in the dying embers of our match away to them in early 2016, it was actually the moment I was truly convinced we could go on and achieve the unthinkable. Thankfully, that’s exactly what we did.

“As a sheer moment that is also simply unforgettable, I’ve got to throw in the Robbie Bajic karate-kick on Fred in 2006.

“I remember seeing it live in person and being as confused as I ever have been in my life.

“We actually covered this moment in a topical video on Purebred Reds, and someone tagged Robbie Bajic in the comments section.

“I was just as confused seeing that as I was in 2006 when it happened.”

Gelios (left) on an episode of Purebred Reds. Picture: Purebred Reds – Adelaide United Fan TV

The aforementioned Purebred Reds – Adelaide United Fan TV is the brainchild of Gelios, who claims he saw a gap in the market and went for it.

To this day it stands as one of his finest decisions and one that has given him a plethora of opportunities to connect with the club he loves so deeply.

“On a personal level, its probably the best thing I’ve ever done for myself,” he said.

“I’ve had so much fun with it and made so many friendships through it and I’ve really thrived from seeing so many fans tune in and engage with all the supporter content we create.

“I feel as though it was a gap in the market – there’s always been a real appetite for fan made content in this town and fans are always wanting to indulge in nostalgia, especially when it concerns some of their past heroes from the early A-league days.

“I’ve been very fortunate that so many supporters and ex-players have gone over and above to support my venture and I plan on being around for many years to come.”

For now, though, Gelios has his attention focussed on Saturday’s game and is bullish in his prediction, which speaks to the unpredictability of the fixture.

The Victory enter the game in terrible form but Gelios, perhaps wisely, is reluctant to write them off.

“I think we’ll go 2-0 up,” he began.

“For some awful reason I can see them making some form of an outrageously undeserved comeback in the final 15 minutes.

“I’m going for a frustrating 2-2 draw.”

Behind all the hatred and countless bloodthirsty contests, though, Gelios admits that he does hold a modicum of respect for one of the A-League’s most successful clubs.

Ultimately, though, for a United fan, there is undoubtedly no scalp more cherished than that of Melbourne Victory.

“It’s a weird one, I love nothing more than to see that club hurting (as we’re seeing right now), although I also respect what they have managed to do for the growth of the A-league as a corporate machine and formerly, a serial winner,” he revealed.

“Put simply, if there was no Melbourne Victory, it’s really hard to see the A-league being the magical domestic product that it has been over the years.

“So, I guess in that light, I do have some respect tucked away in the closet for Melbourne Victory.

“However, I don’t think their fans have the same reverence for us, so really, I can’t bring myself to say that I wouldn’t love seeing Melbourne Victory fail every season.

“After Melbourne Victory for us, no one really comes close.

“Our supporters will often say ‘we sort of hate Sydney’, but it’s not even in the same stratosphere as our detestation for the Victory in my view.”

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