Australia's 'Juventus' aim for historic FFA Cup first

For Moreland Zebras a clash in the FFA Cup Quarter Finals feels like a trip back in time.

Steeped in a rich history which spans back to the days of the NSL and beyond, Moreland approach their FFA Cup Quarter Final clash with Brisbane Strikers with memories of trophies, big name players and top flight football fresh in their minds.

But with the Zebras and Strikers now plying their trade in Victorian and Queensland state leagues respectively, both clubs are relishing the opportunity to return to the national stage on Wednesday night, with the prospect of reaching the final four of a major cup competition at stake.

“We think (the FFA Cup) is a shot in the arm for the code; it’s perfect,” Moreland Club President Joe Sala said.

“It just brings us back and enables us to showcase ourselves.

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“Both the Dockerty Cup and FFA Cup, which run concurrently are a massive opportunity for all clubs to put themselves in the limelight, and by putting themselves in the limelight they attract better people, infrastructure, surrounds and sponsorship.

“It’s all about promoting our game.”

Founded in 1997, Moreland Zebras are a modern representation of a historical football community which has played under many different names, but in only two colours: black and white.

But of all their incarnations, none is more significant than the great Brunswick Juventus, a powerhouse of Australian football which won the NSL title in 1985.

“It’s important for Australian football to understand its roots,” Sala said.

“We were formed in 1948 officially wearing the black and white strip and the pride of that was a collective of various social groups.

“They put together a football team and at that stage they needed an identity that represented the whole community.

“Juventus was chosen for those reasons, and from that day onwards we’ve always traditionally worn the black and white stripes.

“We’ll be 72 years old in January next year so we’re pretty used to collecting silverware.

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Moreland Zebras celebrate a goal in the FFA Cup

“We’ve got umpteen state league trophies in Victoria, we’ve got the 1985 NSL title as Brunwick Juventus, and we’ve got six Dockerty Cups in Victoria as well so we’re pretty proud of our collective history in that regard and hope to add something to it in the near future.

“Whether that will be the FFA Cup I’m not entirely sure at this stage but certainly in this round we’ll give it a big shake, we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Moreland approach the Semi Final from the second tier of state football in Victoria and are the first NPL 2 side to have reached an FFA Cup Quarter Final, but Sala says they feel right at home amongst any side they draw in the cup.

“I know it’s an achievement but it’s not a surprise for us,” Sala said.

“We genuinely feel we belong in the top tier of football in Victoria... so it’s not a surprise to see us up there, we can constantly mix it with the next level up, that’s not an issue.”

Leading Moreland into battle on Wednesday evening is Fausto De Amicis, a former junior of the club who went on to have a successful career of his own.

The former Socceroo won four NSL titles in a career spanning across the 1990’s and into the new millennium, but it all started for De Amicis when he was just a kid adorned in black and white.

“The gaffer has done a good job to get us this far and an excellent job in the league as well,” Sala said.

“He’s growing all the time in stature and we’re very happy for him especially as he was one of our own as a junior.

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“It fills the whole club with pride when these sort of stories come out.”

Once a player and now in charge, De Amicis faces a stern managerial test on Wednesday night as he takes his side back to a stage the black and white of Brunswick Juventus used to so frequently perform on.

“I can assure you one thing: we’ll cater our game plan to suit the opposition and we’ll tailor our game plan to suit what’s going on at various stages of the game,” Sala said.

“We’re quite adept at being able to be fluid; a lot of our boys have been skilled in the art of playing various roles.

“You’ll see us unearth a couple of youngsters on Wednesday night; some of whom have been through our system for four or five years... they’re still young but they’ve been blooded with the culture of the football club, they know who they play for and they also know there’s an opportunity to showcase their talents for bigger things to come.

“We expect a good challenge, we have a lot of respect for Brisbane Strikers and the way they go about things, and we also understand where they sit on the (football) pyramid.

“But we know our capabilities so we’re looking forward to it.”

Moreland Zebras face Brisbane Strikers in an FFA Cup Quarter Final from 7:30pm AEST on Wednesday night. Watch live on Fox Sports, Kayo Sports or the My Football Live app.

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