Perth Glory’s win over Melbourne City is going to go down as one of Bruno Fornaroli’s favourite moments of his career – but not for the reason you might expect.
Shrugging off a disappointing run of form that saw Glory go into the round bottom of the league, Glory absorbed everything City could throw at them on Friday night before striking back through goals from Fornaroli, Tomislav Mrcela and an own-goal from Harrison Delbridge.
It was the first time Fornaroli had come up against the side where he became an A-League legend since being forced out by former coach Warren Joyce.
However, after he outmuscled Delbridge to head in a ball in the 27th minute of the first half, it was quickly apparent the Urugyuan striker was not in Victoria on a revenge mission.
Running over towards Glory’s travelling fans in the aftermath of his goal, the normally fiery Fornaroli’s celebration was uncharacteristically muted.
It was a respectful gesture that was returned in kind by the City fans.
There was no booing of Fornaroli from the home supporters when he came close to the ball on Friday night and at several times anti-Joyce chants could be heard emanating from the City active support.
When it eventually came time for the striker to depart the field in the 87th minute, he was met with a standing ovation from his former fanbase – showing their respect towards a man that scored 48 goals across 70 appearances in a City shirt.
Speaking to journalists after the game, the emotional value of that ovation to the 32-year-old became clear.
“For me, it’s crazy,” he said. “To see the love the fans have for me I think it’s the best. It’s the best.
“[It means] more than than the title you can win, more than the trophies you can win. In the end, football is this, I prefer this.
“Maybe, someone will one day win a trophy for [City] and no one will remember him and no one will say goodbye or hello. But the feeling that I had in my last minute – nothing can compare.
“For me, it was the best feeling I had tonight.”
Observing Fornaroli in the bowels of AAMI Park following the game, it was clear that he was still held in high regard by those that remained at City’s Bundoora headquarters.
Genuine hugs, jokes, smiles and stories were shared between former teammates and members of City’s staff and the striker.
Just before he headed to the Glory team bus, Fornaroli paused to reconnect with a number of City’s younger players that were also headed for the exit.
They were players that no doubt would have sat far below him on the totem pole when he was in Bundoora but, regardless, remained his protégés to nurture and encourage.
“I enjoyed coming back here and seeing the people,” Fornaroli explained.
“It’s nice when you see the people that you love, and I have a lot of people inside the club.
"As soon as I close the door tonight, and I see the people I feel like I’m home and this is great for me.”