Grand final drama

By GREGOR MACTAGGARTmactaggartg@gladstoneobserver.com.au

UNITED by name, united by nature. That was the story on an emotional Saturday night at Marley Brown Oval as United took on Clinton in the 2005 Gladstone Soccer Federation first division grand final.

It was lucky there was even a game at all, with United initially choosing to stand out of the decider after the recent alleged racial vilification of United star Greg Donald by a Clinton soccer player.

In a respectful sign of solidarity, every United player came on to do their warm-ups wearing specially designed t-shirts. The t-shirts read: "No to Racism, Colour is only skin deep.'' These seven words combined with the United players gutsy stand was warmly appreciated by the majority of large crowd who had come to watch the grand final.

When the game was due to start, the United team walked off the park and went back to their change-rooms.

Gladstone Soccer Federation vice-president Col Nevell went into the United rooms and told the players if they didn't come back onto the ground they would be bringing the game into disrepute.

You could have cut the tension with a knife as United coach Tony Gilmour gauged the feelings of every member of his team.

The United team, a mix of talented youngsters and wily veterans decided to go back onto the ground and play, drawing a standing ovation from the supportive crowd.

The feeling I had was that United clearly made their point, now it was time for the grand final to begin.

To their credit, both teams didn't let the emotions spill over during what was certainly a classic match ultimately won by Clinton 2-1.

The United stand continued after the final whistle as players, supporters, officials, family members and general crowd members wore the shirts arm in arm as the final presentations were made.

As I left the ground, the resonating chants of 'United, United' could be heard around the Marley Brown Oval. It was certainly a night I will never, ever forget. And I am not the only one.



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