Brisbane clubs Lions FC and Olympic FC will continue to fight for honours in the National Premier Leagues (NPL) Queensland as the season goes on but coming up is a huge target – an FFA Cup Round of 32 derby.
Currently first and second on the NPL Queensland ladder with just one point between them, Lions won the right to host the major capital clash at their Richlands Stadium next Wednesday, 25 July when the Round of 32 draw was done.
The draw includes three other Queensland clubs – Cairns FC, Gold Coast Knights and Hyundai A-League club Brisbane Roar.
What better way to launch the Round of 32 with a hometown derby between two of the biggest rivals going around?
And opposing coaches, Olympic’s Ben Cahn and Warren Moon of Lions FC are itching to go one-up on each other in what will be the first time the two powerful clubs have met each other in the cup competition.
Olympic have made the FFA Cup Round of 32 just once before, in the national club competition’s inaugural 2014 season when they beat Melbourne Knights 3-1.
But Olympic subsequently bowed out in the Round of 16 when they lost 3-1 at home against Hyundai A-League’s Central Coast Mariners.
Lions FC, playing as Queensland Lions, made the Round of 32 in 2015 and beat South Australian club Croydon Kings 2-1 before going down 1-0 to Hyundai A-League club Perth Glory in the next round.
This is a special occasion coming up, make no bones about it, with bragging rights at stake away from advancement to the Round of 16 as the major prize.
Cahn is not prepared to describe the July 25 showdown as a huge derby, even if it will showcase two prominent Brisbane clubs.
“Yes and no,” Cahn said of the battle coming up.
“It’s two strong, progressive clubs coming up against each other.
“But rather than looking at who the opponent is and the local derby angle, it is more about looking at how we can progress to the next round.
“Once the draw is done the only focus is on making the next round.”
Cahn, though, likes the Cup format and says the upcoming clash is “a good occasion for football in Queensland”.
“I think it has been fantastic for Australian football in general. It has brought clubs from around the country together, it has brought the various tiers together and it gives good exposure for young players.”
Cahn has been there, done that, in terms of the Cup final 32.
He was with the Central Coast Mariners when they were knocked out 2-1 by Blacktown City in the Round of 32 last year and in 2016 when they were rocked 2-1 by Green Gully at the same stage.
There are a number of current Olympic players who have tasted some success in the Cup, including Shane Stefanutto, Alex Smith, Danny Byrne, Matt Mundy and pocket rocket Jean-Philippe Lasm, the diminutive Ivory Coaster.
Lasm was with Surfers Paradise in 2016 when the Apollo made the Round of 32 out of the Gold Coast Premier League.
The Apollo lost 1-0 away to Canberra Olympic and now the effervescent midfielder would love to go a few steps further in the competition.
“It’ll be good to do it again, but this time get into the next few rounds, of course,” Lasm said.
“I went through this in 2016 with Surfers. We were massive underdogs to get to Round of 32 but on the way we beat three NPL clubs.”
As far as the Lions’ coach Warren Moon is concerned, drawing a Brisbane rival first-up is part of what the Cup is all about, the chance of drawing local or interstate rivals.
“To get a Brisbane derby? This is the magic of the Cup,” Moon said.
“It is special (the Cup) because on a given day anyone can beat anyone.
“We’d love to go further because it’d put us back on the national stage.”
Moon was with the Lions as a player-coach in 2016 when they made the Round of 16, but he missed the fixture against Perth Glory due to injury.
“Getting a home game is a big advantage but it would have been a bigger advantage if it was an interstate team we were playing,” he said.
The two sides have already played twice in the NPL Queensland 2018 season, both recording 1-0 wins at home.
Lions FC v Olympic FC
Wednesday, 25 July 2018
Lions Stadium, Pine Road, Richlands
Buy tickets here
Words: Terry Wilson
Image: Ian Judd