Is "football" still behind Aussie Rules football in the popularity stakes Down Under? Maybe not for long.
After experiencing the wonderful atmosphere at the local derby between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City in last Saturday's A-League clash here, Herald Sun writer Jon Ralph, an Aussie Rules football journalist, conceded that Australia's No. 1 sport was in danger of being overshadowed by a sport they refer to as "football".
In a column headlined "Fandemonium", he wrote that while the football match failed to live up to its billing as a tight affair - Victory romped to a 3-0 win over a City side that featured Singapore star Safuwan Baharudin - the game stole a march on the better-supported Australian Football League by luring 40,042 fans to the Etihad Stadium.
He described the match as "only part of the theatre that had everything".
And he was right.
After a big push by the A-League over the last few years, football is catching on here and the Socceroos' victorious Asian Cup campaign last month has created an even bigger buzz.
There are initiatives in the A-League that the S.League can copy.
As early as two hours before kick-off, there were two game set-ups outside the stadium for fans to participate in.
The main one was organised by hosts Melbourne Victory, in the form of a fenced-up area with inflatable goalposts and targets to aim at. Anybody could have a go, although mainly, excited kids stood in line.
A smaller game was hosted by A-League title sponsors Hyundai, and the challenge for participants was to chip the ball into the trunk of a car.
Both proved to be hits.
Their social media initiatives were also on point. If you tweeted or "instagrammed" a photo with the hashtag "#10yearsproud" - 2015 represents Victory's 10-year anniversary - your picture would show up on the big screen in the stadium.
Delphi Bank also had a contest where it handed A$100 ($106) to a lucky fan if he or she was featured on the screen.
While players took a break during half-time of the Melbourne Derby, there was still much activity on the pitch.
Hyundai unfurled a huge tarpaulin bearing its logo in the middle of the pitch, and also had a mini-pitch set up next to it, with staff in inflatable car costumes catching the eye.
Four other mini-pitches were set up, with the boundaries marked by sponsors' names.
Some may argue that it's easy to do all these when you have a whopping 34 sponsors, as Victory have.
But the list features world-renowned firms like kitmakers Adidas to a local funeral company, proving that no one is too small or irrelevant.
Small matters also matter here.
For example, before each coach speaks at post-game press conferences, the staff of each club hang up a backdrop with the sponsors' logos.
It hardly takes a minute, it gives sponsors the added exposure, and also sends the message that they matter.
In his column, Ralph suggested that the Socceroos' Asian Cup win and the impending arrival of Real Madrid, Roma and Manchester City in June will spur further growth of football.
The big guns have also been making regular stopovers to the Lion City.
Arsenal will headline the English Premier League Asia Trophy tournament, which is set to be held at the National Stadium in July. With the South-east Asia Games here a month before that, there will be a unique buzz that Singapore must capitalise on.
As the S.League prepares to kick off its 20th season, the A-League can serve up ideas and also act as inspiration
This article was first published on Feb 09, 2015.
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