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Record derby crowd landmark A-League night

It was a night that made rival sporting codes sit up as 61,880 spectators poured into ANZ Stadium.
Record derby crowd landmark A-League night
Photo Source: AAP

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It was a night that made Australia's rival sporting codes sit up and listen.

As 61,880 spectators poured through the turnstiles at ANZ Stadium on Saturday, the A-League set up the optimal spingboard for a thriving 12th season.

The crowd set a record for any competitive football match in Australia, comfortably eclipsing the 55,436 that watched Melbourne Victory beat Adelaide United in the 2006-07 grand final at Etihad Stadium.

Tellingly, it also trumped last month's AFL qualifying final derby between the Sydney Swans and GWS Giants (60,222) and July's rugby league State of Origin III (61,267).

Football Federation Australia would not have dared envision such progress when the A-League started in 2005.

Indeed, the four-year rivalry between Sydney FC and Western Sydney should be starkly immature compared to counterparts in Europe and South America often charged by more than a century of antipathy.

Yet the electric atmosphere at a normally lifeless Olympic Park would have held its own anywhere in the world.

The hostility between Sydney's foundation glamour club and its bitter cross-city rival has mushroomed since 2012, when FFA tapped into the breeding ground of football passion in the city's west.

The sight of the Wanderers' active supporter group, the Red and Black Bloc, brandishing a massive tifo and trading chants with Sydney's The Cove makes for good TV.

And it's what gives the governing body added value as it negotiates a crucial new broadcast deal that will provide the fiscal fuel to further grow the Australian round-ball game.

New Sky Blues defender Michael Zullo compared his first Sydney derby to his experience playing in Holland for FC Utrecht.

"It was world class on all fronts," Zullo said.

"We really don't give enough credit to what the A-League has become and what we've built in this country.

"We should be incredibly proud of what we've done.

"Our fans are just as passionate as any of the fans I've played in front of overseas.

"The one that sticks out to me was our derby match when I played for Utrecht against Ajax - and that's got 100 years of history behind it.

"Yet tonight was just as fierce."

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