FFA Cup dream a reality for Sydney's youngest club

Players from Sydney CBD FC gather at the weekend for a pre-season match. (Scott McIntyre) Source: Scott McIntyre

When Sydney CBD FC takes to the field in the preliminary rounds of the Football Federation Australia (FFA) Cup, it will mark the incredible realisation of one man's dream to start a football club and the diverse mix of players who helped him make it happen.

There are two large bronze sculptures that flank the entrance to the Art Gallery of NSW, in what many would consider to be the heart of downtown Sydney.

Cast by British artist Gilbert Bayes in 1923, one is titled The Offerings Of War, the other The Offerings Of Peace and the pair of bronze equestrian statues stand with the city skyline on one side, and a grassy area roughly the size of two football fields known as the Domain grounds just below them.

It's an appropriate stage for the 'home ground' of one of Australia's newest football clubs and a fitting metaphor for the struggles they've gone through in building from scratch a team that barely a year after its formation will this week compete in the early rounds of the Football Federation Australia (FFA) Cup.

One of the reasons so few new clubs are born is the sheer cost and burden, both financially and in terms of time invested, of bringing to fruition what often starts as either a moment of frustration, inspiration or drunken impulse.

In the case of Sydney CBD FC it was a little bit of all the above, minus the drinking.

At least initially.

Sitting at his desk in the office of a finance company late on a Tuesday afternoon in November 2013, Scotsman Chris Paton suddenly decided that he had to take action immediately on the years of dreaming about starting a football club.

He headed straight down to his company's graphics department and within a week had the colours, logo and name settled.

The idea was to have a club smack-bang in the middle of the nation's largest city, right in the commercial heart of central Sydney.

It was perhaps unusual that no club already resided there given the sheer weight of people who live, work or travel through the region on a daily basis. Within a year the Ds, as they call themselves, have started to act as a magnet for new players who hail from all corners of the world.

The ambitious club now has three teams with 17 different nationalities represented. In the likely side this Wednesday there's a Danish goalkeeper, an English centre-back, a Belgian central midfielder, a Moroccan utility and an Argentinian No.10, coached by one of his countrymen. It's unlikely there's such a cosmopolitan team in the entire competition.

Moreover, the strides they've taken in barely a year of existence are nothing short of remarkable.

When Paton's light-bulb moment arrived he had to scramble together all the elements that usually take years to realise – a ground, a clubhouse (the character-filled Old Fitzroy Hotel in downtown Sydney), players and facilities – in the space of barely two months to compete in the 2014 season.

One of the main challenges, though, was to find an actual competition that the embryonic club could join. Step forward the Sydney Amateur Football League (SAFL).

The SAFL is a two-tiered league featuring amateur sides from the inner-city ring of Sydney that has been running in various forms and with variegated popularity since 1947. While regulated by Football New South Wales, it sits outside the traditional state associations umbrella meaning it was much easier to establish a new club and they were more than willing to accommodate Paton and his as yet non-existent team.

Ads were placed – in hope as much as anything else – on the ubiquitous Gumtree boards and within a couple of days Paton's email was overflowing with players keen to get on board with the new side.

A mate with a coaching background was roped in, trials hastily organised, and by January 2014 the club had two teams ready for action.

The next problem, though, was finding a place to train.

A nomadic couple of weeks ensued with the teams conducting what they termed 'guerrilla training' under whatever lights they could find in Sydney's Hyde Park – rocking up in gear ready to go and running through sessions with one eye cast to avoid roaming council rangers.

The Ds then shifted base to their present home at the Domain but were struck by the same problems facing footballers the world over: a lack of adequate lighting.

Not a problem. Someone came up with the idea of portable lights and in line with keeping costs down they even ran a cable almost a hundred metres down through a set of stairs to an underground carpark where they 'borrowed' the electricity from a subterranean vending machine.

The relationship is now a formal one and the club has ambitious plans to turn the Domain into a true home ground, for now though it has to rent Valentine Park in the western reaches of Sydney for its tilt at FFA Cup glory.

The Ds' first-up opponent is NSW south coast outfit Woonona, a club that last year celebrated its 125th anniversary.

These kind of fixtures are exactly why the FFA Cup was such a long overdue idea and while logic suggests the well-established visitor should prevail, don't discount this match as the first in a possible run of 'cupsets' for the boys from central Sydney.

Last year they won the SAFL Cup and finished runner-up in the league at the first time of asking. With a team bond forged over many a beer in the Old Fitzroy, they might just present more than nuisance value for any side in the second edition of the nationwide FFA Cup.