A universal truth known and understood by fans around the world is that football is far more than a game. Football is a religion, it is a way of life, a code of ethics, a set of values and a great level playing field in a world of elites and commoners. The recent announcement that West Sydney will be represented in the 2012-2013 Hyundai A-League season was a wonderful occasion. Even better was the announcement that this would be a community-focused team and that everything from the colours and logo to the culture and location would be subject to consultation. I am a Westie through and through. Raised in Blacktown, schooled at Toongabbie and Castle Hill, a graduate from the University of Western Sydney and now a resident of Penrith, I will support the new team no matter what. For what it’s worth though, I would like to make a case for the new team wearing the famous claret and blue of London’s West Ham United FC and being known as the Hammers or Irons.
I became a West Ham supporter in 2004 following my first trip to the UK. I stayed in Barking in London’s East End for two months and was struck by the passion the locals had for their team, the sophisticated way in which they discussed tactics and the extensive knowledge they had of their team’s history. The thing that struck me most, however, was that these people were so similar to people from Western Sydney. I was thrilled to see a game live at Upton Park and talk with the fans. I spoke with taxi drivers, mechanics, builders, labourers, shop owners and all manner of working class people, joined by a common passion and dream.
The links between West Ham and West Sydney are strong. They are both working class areas, distanced from the wealth and ostentation of the CBD and surrounding suburbs. In the opening scene of the classic crime drama, Blood In Blood Out, the main character is asked what the difference is between East LA and LA. He firmly replies, ‘It’s a whole different country’. Similarly, West Sydney is a whole different country to Sydney and this will be represented in the football clubs. Sydney FC, like Chelsea, is a large, inner-city glamour club with a wealthy Russian owner (and they both wear blue). West Sydney, like West Ham, must be a club to represent the battlers, the working class and the true believers. We may not have the money of ‘Bling FC’ or their supporters but we will stand proudly behind our team who will carry with them the hopes and dreams of their supporters.
I propose claret and blue for two main reasons. The first reason is simply because it looks good and it looks distinctive. The A-League, of course, already has its Reds and Sky Blues. Yellow has been particularly popular with the Mariners, Phoenix and now-defunct Gold Coast all using it. In an attempt to be distinctive, Perth have used the less-than-appealing purple while the also defunct North Queensland opted for a particularly revolting lime green. Claret and blue looks great but more importantly it will be entirely unique and instantly recognisable in Australia.
The second reason is that claret and blue has such a strong history, though West Ham, as being the colours of the working class. These are the battlers’ colours and the new West Sydney team should be proud to wear them. In the same way, our team and fans should adopt the nickname the Irons or Hammers. Our logo should include the crossed over hammers as it is a powerful image and statement. It represents the skill and power of the labourers and their significant contribution to society. This is a ready-made fit for West Sydney. Among the hardcore supporters of this team will be few merchant bankers, doctors and lawyers. This will be a team wedded to the working class, to ordinary Aussies dedicated week in and week out to seeing their team succeed against the elites.
When a football club represents not just a team of players but the aspirations of an entire class of people, the loyalty and support that club receives is incredible. Here in Australia, the Sydney Hammers and various other fan clubs around the country still watch every game on the other side of the world with baited breath. If the new West Sydney team taps into the well of emotions that the working class have as they seek dignity, respect and equality with their wealthier, Eastern and Northern suburbs neighbours, then the foundations for a team with fanatical and generational support will be laid. My name is Benjamin Thomas Jones and I am a son of Western Sydney. I propose to you a new team: West Sydney United Football Club supported by the Claret and Blue army. Come on you Irons!