Originally Posted by A-League Website
A-League up with the best
Saturday, 9 December, 2006 - 1:12PM
Bren O'Brien, Sportal
The stunning crowd of 50,333 that turned up to watch Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC at Telstra Dome is a sure sign that the Hyundai A-League is up there with the best club competitions in the world, according to Sydney coach Terry Butcher.
Butcher, who represented England at three World Cups, played in front of big crowds in England and Scottish club football, but never thought when he took up the helm at Sydney earlier this year that he'd be in charge of a team playing in front of more than 50,000.
"I was completely knocked back by the crowd the first time down here (more than 39,000), I think it really hit home to people what the A-League could be and I think it's even better, it's getting better and bigger and stronger and I'm really pleased to be a part of that," he said.
"If you've got 50,000-odd people coming to games, it's up there with a lot of leagues around the world. That's just an incredible achievement. The standard of football and the quality of football is getting better all the time."
"The aim and ambition is to reach those levels, we're not quite there yet, but it will get there. What it does do, it sends out signals around the world that the crowd and the occasion of what's happening, people want to come here."
Victory skipper Kevin Muscat agrees that sell-out crowds and high-class football will encourage more Australian players to return home to play in the Hyundai A-League.
"You'd do well to find an Australian abroad this weekend that's gonna play in front of a bigger crowd than that. I understand you can say stadium sizes and circumstances, but the fact is you'd be pushed to find that," he said.
As a measure of the popularity of the Victory, and the Hyundai A-League, the previous time an AFL match was played at the ground in front of a bigger crowd than 50,333 was in 2004.
For Mark Rudan, the veteran defender who played for Sydney United and Northern Spirit in the old NSL, as well as having stints in China, Malaysia and Germany, the sight of a near-capacity Telstra Dome was almost beyond belief.
"Just before we walked out in the tunnel (referee) Mark Shield turned around and said, 'Mate, can you believe this?' From Sydney United to 50-55,000," he said. "Every time we had a goal kick I had to look around and just take it all in, it was something special tonight."
"I think today goes down in history and I think it will be one of the biggest crowds. I don't think it will be beaten for a long time, I must be honest with you. So put this day down in history, because that's what we've got to rejoice in."
The attendance shattered the previous record for a domestic football match in Australia set at 43,292 at the NSL final in Perth in 2000. Rudan said the popularity of the Hyundai A-League is fitting reward for those fans who have waited a long time for Australian domestic football to capture the nation.
"All the football lovers in this country, who've been waiting a long time. I've been waiting for a long time. In '93 I made my debut, playing in front of 500 sometimes, 5000 sometimes, but now we've got 50,000. I've been playing when the chips were down … but now the A-League's here, this is what it's all about."