It is a local derby that may not be on as grand a scale as some famed overseas blockbusters, but a clash in the Sunshine State capital – the Brisbane Classico – brings with it just as much tribal passion and intensity.
On Saturday night at Lions Stadium in Richlands, Lions FC (formerly known as Queensland Lions) host Brisbane City in another chapter of a long-time rivalry between two proud and successful clubs.
The Classico is a battle for bragging rights in Brisbane and, after a five-year hiatus, was resurrected when the Lions were admitted to the National Premier Leagues (NPL) Queensland competition this year.
When the NPL Queensland was established in 2013, City went that way and the Lions opted to remain in the Brisbane Premier League (BPL).
Brisbane City was founded in 1952, Queensland Lions in 1957, so they go back a long way as clubs based on ethnic support – City with an Italian influence and the Lions with a strong Dutch support base.
Both clubs were invited to play in the old National Soccer League (NSL) from 1977 and, ironically as such fierce rivals, both played out of Perry Park.
A decade later and after the revamping of the national competition, City and the Lions found themselves back in the BPL.
Now it is on again as both clubs seek to shore up places in this season’s NPL Queensland finals.
A 2-1 first-round win at City’s home ground of Corporate Travel Management Stadium in Newmarket reignited the rivalry, the Lions surging home on the back of two Shaun Carlos goals.
“We weren’t too happy about that but they were the better side on the day,” City coach John Kosmina conceded before forecasting an interesting night coming up.
“They deserved it, we just weren’t good enough. We have a fairly young side and probably we suffered for bit of inexperience in these kinds of environment and I think this time around I think the younger players will be better prepared.”
Now 61 and boasting 60 appearances for the Socceroos, Kosmina knows just how much feeling can be generated by matches against the Lions.
“I played against both teams back in the first year of the old NSL when they both played out of Perry Park and there was a rivalry then,” he said.
“It goes back a long way and I know it has been around for 40 years – and I think that is great.
“It’s healthy for the game because one thing I think our game is lacking right across the board is that old-school passion.
“I know there are a lot of people at our club who were pretty peeved about the result of the first round and I knew how much it meant to them.
“So this one (on Saturday night) is important for both sides. Everyone wants bragging rights, and it’s great to have derbies.”
Across in the blue corner plotting City’s downfall is Lions coach, 35-year-old Warren Moon, who has his side sitting pretty on the ladder, fourth on 27 points and five points behind leaders Olympic FC but with two games in hand on the pacesetters.
Moon, who works full-time as football director at the Anglican Church Grammar School, is one of a number of people at the Lions with City connections.
“On and off I was there as a player for probably three years in the late 90s under Miron Bleiberg and I think we won all trophies in an era when the Lions were quite prosperous,” Moon said.
“The rivalry was there from the Brisbane Premier League days but then it intensified after that.
“When we played them in round one it was a great feeling, the atmosphere was great and it was probably more enjoyable because we won it.
“It was played in good spirit and on Saturday night on our turf I expect more of the same.”
Moon and Kosmina had a preview of this weekend’s event when they locked horns last week as coaches of rival schools Churchie and Gregory Terrace, where Kosmina is coach.
The result ended in a 3-3 stalemate.
Words: Terry Wilson