On one minute, off the next. Sunday the 29th of February 2004, the moment the light went out, the end of the National Soccer League, and the end of the limelight for the Melbourne Knights. Then on a cold June night in the heart of Melbourne in 2014 the light began to flicker, growing to full beam.
I don’t think anybody at the time actually realised how much it would all be missed – I definitely didn’t. That day in February 2004 will be one that I shall remember for eternity, a day that made me proud to be Croatian, yet sad to see that something so great had ultimately come to an end.
For a group of guys that wanted to show the people we are a nation, we exist as a nation; we did a damn good job at it. From being expelled in 1972 to lifting back-to-back trophies in 1995 and 1996, the whole world knew about the Melbourne Knights, the Manchester United of Australia. Not only were we the best and most dominate side in the country during the 1990s, we were also the most successful Croatian club outside of Croatia.
After what seemed like an eternity of no activity for the club between the end of the NSL and beginning of the 2005 Victorian Premier League season, the club finally kicked off against Sydney United in what was the beginning the now annual ‘Friendship Cup’. Although no longer on the national stage, it was evident that the club was still somewhat relevant to the Croatian and football communities with some 2,500 people in attendance.
Despite this, unless you were at the game or reading the local Croatian paper, you wouldn’t have known the result and more than likely that the match was even on. The club didn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, and there was certainly no mainstream media interest. And it was going to get any better from there, with crowd figures slowly dwindling year after year, and interest from anyone other than the regulars almost completely lost, the future wasn’t bright.
Then at around 6am on Wednesday the 25th of June 2014 a light began to flicker.
To read more, buy a copy of tomorrow’s matchday programme, available at Knights Stadium for $3! The Knights take on Heidelberg United, with kick off at 3PM.