Perceptions are changing, says Del Piero
Much has been made of the "Alessandro Del Piero effect" and the man himself is hopeful he's already changed perceptions of football in Australia.
Del Piero's Sydney FC drew a record regular A-League season crowd of 35,419 to Allianz Stadium for their first home game against Emile Heskey's Newcastle on Saturday night, trumping the 33,485 they attracted when playing Melbourne Victory in January 2008.
The crowd left thoroughly entertained, having witnessed a goal-fest in Sydney's 3-2 loss and seen both Del Piero and Heskey find the back of the net for the first time in the A-League.
And while Italian superstar Del Piero was disappointed with Sydney FC's loss he was delighted by the turnout.
"We had 35,000 people (which is) amazing and we are very proud of this and we hope at the end of the season the fans will be proud of us more than today and I think that will happen," he said.
"I think the people didn't completely enjoy today because we lost but they watched five goals."
The 37-year-old former Juventus playmaker, who stayed back signing autographs after the post-match media conference, said while the team had plenty of work to do he already feels the public's appreciation of football is on the rise.
When asked how much of an impact his presence was having on Australians' interest in the sport he said: "I don't know, I hope a lot.
"I think everything has changed now, well not everything, but there is a different view of soccer now. But we have to work hard. It's not enough. We have to work to change a lot of things.
"There is a good sensation around me, and I'm happy about that... so this is an exciting challenge."
The packed crowd exploded with delight when Del Piero scored his first goal - a spectacular free-kick which is sure to feature in A-League highlight reels for seasons to come - and Sydney coach Ian Crook feels the often fickle Sydney fans saw enough on Saturday night to return for future fixtures.
"If I was a spectator, I would come back," he said.
"We just watched him (Del Piero) produce again another 90 minutes of what we all knew he could do plus put the icing on the cake with the goal.
"So for me I think people would have gone away as Alessandro says disappointed that we got beat but I think they've seen a good game of football."