Spiranovic could tackle Saudi spitter
Photo Source: AAP
Matthew Spiranovic is set for a showdown with the controversial Saudi Arabian striker who spat at him in the bitter aftermath of Western Sydney's AFC Champions League final victory.
The Socceroos defender could well find himself toe-to-toe with Nasser Al-Shamrani, the Al-Hilal frontman who is in the Saudi squad for Thursday's World Cup qualifier (Friday morning AEDT).
Al-Shamrani was slapped with an eight-game ban by the Asian Football Confederation in 2014 for spitting towards and attempting to headbutt Spiranovic after the second leg of the Champions League decider in Riyadh.
Al-Shamrani, 32, missed the Asian Cup held in Australia a few weeks later due to injury, making this the first time he will cross paths with Spiranovic, who now plays his club football in China.
"What happened definitely doesn't belong on a football pitch," Spiranovic said.
"It's in the past, it doesn't play on my mind at all. If he wants to carry on I'll let the governing bodies worry about that, and I'll just worry about my job."
Spiranovic ranks the Wanderers' triumph as one of his top career highlights and the atmosphere at the packed King Fahd International Stadium one of the most hostile he's experienced in football.
"I've never played in front of such a crowd. It was surreal, just a sea of blue and white," he said.
But he got his first taste of Saudi football passion well before the match, when Al-Hilal fans began a coordinated attack on the social media accounts of Western Sydney players.
His Instagram timeline was flooded with blue heart emojis and angry messages in Arabic.
"All the Al-Hilal fans were definitely giving it to us, that's for sure," Spiranovic said.
However, the Wanderers soon found an unlikely online ally - fans of rival Saudi club Al-Nassr, who became honorary supporters because they didn't want Al-Hilal to win.
"I think it's a little bit strange when another club starts supporting you, especially from the same country - but it's understandable, they're big rivals," Spiranovic said.
"When that started, you started to get an idea of the fanbase these guys have.
"You look at the club and their following, and you hear the stadium's already sold out and going to be packed to the rafters - 65,000 screaming men, basically. It was insane."
Spiranovic expects the same sort of treatment at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, particularly with Saudi Arabia undefeated so far in this stage of qualification.
"I haven't been told any different. They've started well, two games, six points. I'm sure that the locals will get out and support the team," he said.