On The Ground At Melbourne’s Global Football Week

On the ground and around town at Melbourne’s Global Football Week

A nearly 80,000 strong crowd for a clash between two Premier League giants, an all-time upset from the men’s A-League All Stars and a Matildas-laden women’s A-League All Stars game highlighted Melbourne’s Global Football Week, lending credence to the city’s claim of being the world’s sporting capital. Men’s Health was on the scene to soak it all in

IT WAS AROUND the time that Apostolos Stamatelopoulos neatly tucked away his second, and the All Stars’ fifth, goal of the game that I realised how truly out of hand the proceedings during the A-League men’s All Stars match against Newcastle United had become.

Thanks to IHG, the official accommodation partner of the Australian Professional Leagues (APL), I was positioned in the heart of the action. This year, IHG provided priceless Global Football Week experiences to IHG One Rewards members by allowing them to bid their loyalty points on packages through the IHG One Rewards Access platform. As one of the lucky few to get a taste of that experience, I was so close to the field I could essentially feel every shift in momentum and keep my finger on the pulse of the crowd’s collective sentiment, which were on full display after that fifth goal.

Over one of my shoulders, one fan loudly urged the referee to invoke a mercy rule to spare the pitiful Newcastle’s dignity. Over the other, a group of younger fans continued their relentless chant of ‘A-League All Stars’, undeterred by the fact that the All Stars very clearly did not need their support to close out this particular contest – if you can call it that. But this wasn’t how this game was supposed to go.



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by A-Leagues (@aleagues)


Up until Saturday night, the history of the A-League men’s All Stars included three games and three losses. The team, comprised of the best Australia’s premier domestic league has to offer, had previously proven to be no match for evidently superior European talent. But this year’s side not only held their own against a team that finished seventh in the English Premier League this season, they utterly dismantled them, sending a colossal eight goals into the back of the net before the final whistle was, to Newcastle’s relief, blown.

Despite the one-sided result, at no stage in the contest did the crowd of more than 42,000’s interest wane. Every goal was met with a rapturous response, a burst of flames from the on-field pyrotechnics, and another round of jeers directed towards Newcastle’s players, who clearly couldn’t wait for their nightmare to end. This is all before the Matildas-heavy women’s All Stars game, I reminded myself. Needless to say, that matchup drew an even more active crowd, with not a moment of anything close to resembling silence.



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by A-Leagues (@aleagues)


Interest in Australian football has largely come in surprising ebbs and flows over the last few years, with ‘surprising’ being the operative word. It was surprising when the Socceroos advanced to the knockout stage of the FIFA World Cup for only the second time in history in 2022. And it was surprising when Matildas fever took over the nation in 2023, as the team ventured all the way into the world cup’s semifinals.

On the other hand, given Australia’s obsession with English football, it wasn’t overly surprising that more than 78,000 fans flooded into the MCG on Friday night to see Newcastle defeat hometown hero Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham on penalties. But what that clash shares with the world cups is a focus on international talent – the best of the best visiting our shores for a few brief outings.

Domestic football, meanwhile, has oscillated between the peripheries and the occasional news report criticising a display of hooliganism. Which is what made the scenes at Marvel Stadium during a pair of matches featuring players from domestic clubs all the more surprising. But then again, if there is one thing Melbourne is known for, it’s always showing up during major sporting events.

Even by Melbourne’s standards, the city was abuzz over the weekend for Global Football Week. Countless pubs, storefronts and restaurants were adorned with some form of footballing memorabilia – the secret Newcastle, Tottenham and Arsenal fans among us really came out of the woodworks. On the street, football jerseys outnumbered AFL guernseys for perhaps the only time in Victorian history. And at the iconic Queen Victoria Market, A-League merch replaced the standard knock-off American sports gear.

Walking the streets is only part of experiencing a city, and among those parts, where you stay might just be the most important. For my visit during Global Football Week, home base was the Crowne Plaza, an IHG hotel that possesses what I’m convinced is the best view of the Yarra river in the entire city.


Global Football Week


That aforementioned uninterrupted view provides an adequate frame for some of Melbourne’s most iconic landmarks – and a spectacular vantage point for people-watching, which helped me assess how evenly spread the jerseys of the three visiting English teams were among the city’s populace. For the record, Arsenal proved the most popular, with three Australian players in Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord and Kyra Cooney-Cross the deciding factors.

There’s more to the Crowne Plaza than the views, however. On the interior, the space is eminently modern, with a tidy room layout and generously spacious setting made up of premium furniture and sharp lighting. The bathroom is the real standout though, with tiled walls, a golden-rimmed mirror and a luxurious shower.


Global Football Week


Stepping out of the hotel, the Crowne Plaza is conveniently located right next a tram line, providing easy access to Melbourne’s sporting precinct, and to the city’s plethora of entries on ‘things to do’ travel articles. One such entry is another IHG hotel, the venerated InterContinental Melbourne, The Rialto, with its iconic architecture and timeless appeal.

Inside InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto lies another privilege for IHG One Rewards members, the exclusive club room. An opulent, private space, Club InterContinental evokes an atmosphere of sophistication, with complimentary refreshments and a range of other services. For me, it was the site of pre-game drinks, but leaving for said game was no easy task once I had fallen victim to the Club room’s hospitality.



So, can Melbourne still lay a claim to being the sporting capital of the world? Well, if Global Football Week was anything to go by, the answer is a resounding yes. And while large-scale events featuring international stars and overseas clubs don’t come to town every weekend, like IHG hotels, the city is always prepared to play host.



Ferrari paints Melbourne red

Bobby Hill on chasing another premiership, overcoming cancer and the importance of Indigenous Round

By Cayle Reid

Cayle Reid is a fan of everything sports and fitness. He spends his free time at the gym, on his surfboard or staying up late watching sports in incompatible time zones.

More From