I’m proud to be an ambassador of the Heart of Melbourne.
For a very long time, I have been following soccer (football!) from the sidelines. When I was a kid, my Dad used to take me to watch Green Gully play. My Nannu would also walk us down to the local pitch to watch a domestic league match on a Sunday. It was the best playing with my cousins at half time, trying to emulate the moves of the players on the pitch.
I enjoyed this time spent with family. We helped out with fundraisers and attended all the events with the aim of supporting our local community through football, family and healthy living. A feeling of safety and happiness within a community was built around the club. Regardless of how many times you attended or what club you supported, you were always embraced as a member.
There are more things I love about this sport. The staying up to all hours of the morning with my brother to watch an English Premiere League (EPL) match, Champions League Final and of course, sleepless weeks when the World Cup is back in town! Why? The rush of a late goal in the closing minutes, the marvel of skill of a player dancing with the ball and the frustration of a nil all game when so much is hanging in the wind.
Soccer has always been something that brings a smile to my face and I have countless happy memories of times shared with family and loved ones around the beautiful game.
Despite this, I have a confession to make. I have never really connected with a soccer club in the same way I have with my AFL team. People often ask me,” who do you support?” I always ask which league, as if to say I support a club in each league. But the honest truth is I never really had a club. I have always struggled with why I could never really embrace a soccer club and be overwhelmed with loyalty and dedication in the same way I am with the Western Bulldogs.
I have tried to connect with clubs and find that emotion I was searching for, but it just wasn’t there. Something was missing and it wasn’t until recently I realised why.
A club is more then just who is the most successful on or off the pitch or with the most amount of supporters. That stuff is all superficial. A club is about belonging; it is about being a part of a group of likeminded people. It is about what you can contribute to the club, what the club does for the community it represents and what is does for its members and supporters. A club has to stand for something that you can believe in, you have to respect its leadership and believe in its direction.
Above all, you have to feel like you are a part of the club regardless of what sporting code, religious belief, political party, sexual preference, gender, age or ethnicity. A club has to make you feel like you are family.
That is what I have found at Melbourne Heart. I have found a family of amazing people who care about more than just winning games. The want to succeed on and off the field and that is the kinda club I stand behind. That is why I am proud to be a Melbourne Heart ambassador and why I’ll be flying the red and white both at the game and in the community.
– Shane Delia